The massacre of the Swallowtails

Last year, I massacred at least two dozen Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in a single senseless act of butchery.  Their execution was swift: each was squished underfoot.  They never had a chance to emerge in all their fluttering glory.  Their wingspans  were denied flight.   Brazen cruelty grounded these little winged aviators before they could grace  our airspace with their beauty.

A Swallowtail caterpillar makes his/her way along a parsley stem. Unlike last year when this worm's relatives were massacred, the visiting bugs will be allowed to stay and eat to their heart's content. I'll do all I can to help them thrive.

Their capital offense? Munching my rarely used and mostly decorative parsley plant.  Parsley is one of the Swallowtail’s preferred food sources.   The plant looks good only – if then – as window dressing on a plate and is hardly worthy of protection.  My cruelty became remorse within minutes of the carnage while Googling to see what predacious bugs I had just slaughtered.  The full color image of the very worms I had pressed flat moments before show that rather than be treated as invaders, these were to be cherished and fed and allowed to mature.  But no.  I took the low road.   Early this spring parsley was very nearly planted again in hopes the winged glories might favor my porch garden pots again.

And they have.  Even though it is the cool of April, a lone Swallowtail caterpillar just this day is inching his/her way along the stem of one of two volunteer parsley plants as it enjoys dining priveleges its forbears never had.  Miraculousy, and with no help from me, two parsley plants have sprouted to the side of my porch.  I will protect these plants with daily surveillance and routine fertilization.  These twin parsleys will become the Ritz of parsley plants for visiting Swallowtails.

I say this because this is how I hope Ellen and Reid will treat such living things.  My atonement is certainly fodder for today’s letter (alas, yet to be composed) and as is the routine, it will be posted next week.  In the meantime, if I could fashion a “Welcome” sign that is legible to Swallowtails and plunk it in the ground adjacent to the parsley, I would.


Now to the bigger, more immediate news: The countdown for the birth of Ellen and Tim’s baby girl is now in earnest.


April 17, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Wow, Ellen, now the clock is ticking and it’s even picking up speed.  Who knows, by the time this letter arrives, your little wonder may be already among us.  My phone is on and at the ready for “the call.”  Nothing is packed yet, and probably won’t be until you sound the ‘Come to St. Paul’ alert.  The chair looks great, and the upstairs is almost unrecognizable.  That will be so cool to have a new bath and upper bedroom done, not for your guests but for you guys.  That is some nice living space.  No sooner had I said it would add value to your house than some nabob from some online living magazine warned against adding bathrooms that would add too much value to a home.  To heck with that idiot.  Can’t you add a room or two simply because it’s nice and makes life easier for you?  What a moron.  It’s not always about resale.  I wasn’t aware you were going to the extent you did, but if you’re going to add a swanky bathroom, why not upgrade the bedroom, too?  Nice.

Had my first salad of the season from the front porch lettuce pot last night, and if you do ever plant lettuce, be sure to add some arugula.  That adds a nice spice to the plate.  Store-bought dressing doesn’t do much for it, but it just prods me to make some homemade vinaigrette.  If it’s acceptable to you guys, I’ll create a little garden plot in the backyard while I’m there.  By the time your daughter is a little one, you can show her how to go out and pick raspberries, which is really a rite of passage for kids – just like you two bumpkins did years ago.  You guys saw to it that very few raspberries ever made it into the house.

Watched the blue birds move in and out of their nesting box this morning, often delivering some bugs to what must be their new brood of hatchlings.  That’s my assumption.  They dive bomb other birds that get anywhere near the box.  Squirrels aren’t immune to the strafing either.  My second box has a nest but I’m not sure what kind of birds built it.  The blue birds held off the chickadees to claim their space.

The forest behind the house has completely leafed out and now we are totally hidden from the condos across the stream and greenbelt.  They can’t see us and we don’t want to see them.  I like that portion of it, the privacy and the quiet.  The front porch is getting a workout.  I might put a tasteful lamp out there to further enjoy my morning paper and a cup – limit, 6 – of coffee.  A couple of years ago I transplanted a sprig of English Ivy, and now it threatens to overrun the entirety of the porch.  It does need to be trimmed back, but not just yet.  It looks vibrant and nice.  Nothing wrong with a little greenery slinking all over the place.  You see some lizards darting in and out of it now and again, so it’s a little arboretum/refuge for them.  That’s okay.

Felicia’s son continues his struggle.  In honesty, I don’t know how she does it let alone holds up under the strain.  It’s just the damndest, God-awful thing.  Hard to imagine the stranglehold drugs have on a person.  It’s been hell for him to try to kick it.

The trip to the Bridger Wilderness may be delayed into early August.  Trying to accommodate some schedules while getting the most people to go.  We will be a smaller group than last year.  Maybe 4-5, tops.  I’m hell-bent on it this year and next.  Felicia won’t go – she worries incessantly about mosquitoes.  If they’re as bad as last year, can’t say as I blame her.  The guy at the Sublette County paper is keeping me apprised of the snow pack.  The guess is that the skeeters won’t be as problematic as last year.  But that’s just a guess.

Okay guys, gotta go.  Ellen, Reid and I will be on full baby alert.  We’ll take care of ourselves; no need for you or Tim to cater to us.  You have bigger – or make that smaller – matters to attend to.



Filed under Writing to adult children

2 responses to “The massacre of the Swallowtails

  1. mort

    Great theme. Good advice for readers too. I have called the ASPCA and told them about you, however. Best to you, almost-Grampa, and of course, Ellen and Tim.

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