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Don And The Ground Wasps

John L. Fuhring

     It was Opening Cubbing for the 2017-18 Season.  The second field was out looking for the hounds and were in a valley at the foot of a slope leading up to a ridge. We spotted some riders from the first field up on the ridge and headed for them. About 2/3 of the way up we encountered the riders coming down and instead of simply making room for them and falling in behind, we were led to the top of the ridge to follow behind them in that fashion.

     Ben and I were bring up the rear and I was considering staying put until everybody was down and only then falling in behind without ascending to the ridge myself. I don't know what Ben's plans were, but he remained nearby me when .... ah... adventure struck.

     Dr. Palus was in the same field I was and near the front. He was already to the top of the ridge when somebody's horse, perhaps his horse, kicked up a huge nest of ground dwelling yellowjacket wasps. Don and his horse seemed to be frozen in place while I watched from down the slope about 15 yards away. I momentarily lost sight of him when my horse turned, but next time I looked, he was on the ground and his horse had run off. Tracy caught Don's horse as it whizzed by me and it behaved itself very well considering what it had been through. While I watched, a seemingly long period of time went by without Don moving at all (wind knocked out of him as later reported). I yelled for Don to get up and get out of there and finally he attempted to get up, but quickly fell down again, unable to move.

     I suspected that something was seriously wrong, but for any help to be had, Don had to be removed from the swarm of wasps. I asked Ben to hold my horse and I dismounted and went up to the top of the ridge on foot. I found Don in a lot of pain emanating from the ankle region. I assumed it was a sprained ankle or a broken bone in the region, but ruled out a much more dangerous break in the femur and that being so, the only thing to do was to drag him away from the wasps. Dragging was decided on because Don assured me that he could not possibly get up.

     Fortunately Don was on a high point of the ridge and by following the ridge west, I could drag him downslope. While I was dragging him, by pulling on his booted feet, the wasps attacked me and stung me a dozen times or more. The stings were mostly to my external ears although some tried to get into my middle ear canal. I received many stings to my neck and a few to my face and one to my lower left lip. The wasps also tried to get under my eyelids, but with some very welcomed help from Amalia and Tracy, we were able to brush them away before they had a chance to sting me in the eyes.

     The wasps followed me and continued to sting, but I didn't know how the others fared. The slope flattened out somewhat and at that point it became nearly impossible to drag Don by myself. Amalia and Tracy came up and we continued to drag Don to safety. After a bit, Don asked to be helped to his feet and so I stood in front of him and let him use my back and shoulders to get up. It was impossible for him to put any weight on his left foot, so I put his arm around my neck and supported him on his left side while Amalia supported him on his right side and we then walked where the horses were under a tree.

     We called for Grant to bring the Kubota to pick Don up. Don complained of pain in his lower leg, but seemed to be otherwise all right. Surprisingly he had very few (or no) wasps stings since they devoted all their "venom" on me. It didn't take Grant long to bring up the Kubota and in the meanwhile, I found that Tracy's beautiful silver flask from Scotland was full of quality whiskey and I helped myself to much of it with very salubrious results.

     I again supported Don under his left shoulder and carefully walked him over to the vehicle. To everybody's relief, Don was smiling and not in a lot of pain as he was driven off proving once again the old saying I made up a while ago: "the difference between a disaster and an adventure is in an adventure nobody gets killed."

     After Don was on his way to the barn, I was ready and willing to walk behind the other riders since Ross had been taken to safety and was unavailable. By the way, while I was afoot and dragging Don, Amalia, Tracy, the mystery lady and Rob had ridden their horses by the swarm and were waiting to help at the tree mentioned earlier. I had started walking west on the ridge (Tracy's "pain killer" was most effective) when the ladies insisted that I ride one of their horses. Of course I refused. They were quite adamant about it and it is very difficult for me to say no to a lady, so I made them show me that they could ride together safely and comfortably. I don't know if they were just saying that, but they assured me everything was fine so I rode a very nice mare that really took care of me and was a joy to ride. I am deeply embarrassed, but I was so concerned with my little self, I failed to register the other lady that so bravely came to our rescue at the time, but I know she was there and I'll find out. It may have been her horse I was riding.

     We hadn't gone all that far when we saw Ben and some riders coming up on a road ahead of us. Ben still had Ross and so everybody got their horses back. I hope I made it clear that I had had a very smooth and comfortable ride and that I greatly appreciated the sacrifice the two ladies had made for me. I was concerned, but Ben assured me that Ross had behaved himself -- he is a good boy, but he has been known to kick. I was a bit “out of it,” but I hope not too much so that I failed to be polite and grateful.

     We rode on for a while, but the hounds and both fields were long gone so we returned to the trailers and, as it turned out, the others came in not long after us too. We washed our horses and then set up for a very nice breakfast while Master Bonnie was taking Don to the emergency room at the Solvang hospital (where she waited for him). Don received prompt and excellent care and it was determined that he had broken the distal Tibia and Fibula at the ankle. Unfortunately, Don and Bonnie returned after the breakfast was over and while everybody was packing up, but Don was all smiles and insisted on driving his truck (minus the trailer and horse) back home himself. Bonnie had a huge platter of delicious ribs that we all were sorry to have missed. She gave the ribs to Don and I had a helping of them later myself. While Don was in his early stages of recovery at home, that food was most welcome.

     I was recruited to come up to Paso that afternoon (Saturday) to do the evening feeding at Don's place and to stay over night to do the feeding in the morning. Before leaving for Paso, I had to return my horse to the stables, do my chores there and then I went home to find some welcomed comfort in bathing my face, ears and neck in cold water. As mentioned, I drove up to Paso to do the Saturday even feeding, stay over night so I could do the next day's morning feeding before returning home.

     On Sunday, after the morning feeding, I returned to Santa Maria where I did my own chores and took care of other business, but Sunday afternoon I returned to do Don's evening feeding, stay overnight again and do the morning feeding on Monday. By the way, when I got up on Sunday morning and looked in the mirror, I didn't recognize myself because my face was round as a full moon with ears sticking out, swollen and red as beets and very comical looking. This is really silly and maybe I shouldn't mention it, but while I was looking at myself in the mirror, I made ridiculous faces to heighten the comical effect. After the Monday morning feeding, and later that morning, Don was able to arrange with a neighbor (just returning from a vacation) to do the afternoon feeding and to send a farm hand over to help. By this time, Don was getting around much, much better.

     I returned home by mid morning on Monday and that was the end of the adventure as far as it goes. By the way, with the help of antihistamines and ibuprofen, the swellings went down within a few days and by Friday evening, only my left ear and the back of my neck showed minor swelling. Because I was so improved, I didn't take any antihistamines or anything else Thursday or Friday, but when I woke up Saturday Morning at 5 AM (a week after) to get ready to go riding with the club, my face was so swollen that I could hardly see out my eyes and I considered not getting up. I got up anyway and started getting ready while taking medicine in the hope things would get better. I am happy to say that things did get better by the time I left the house (6 AM) and continued to get better and better as the day wore on so that I can say that I had a most enjoyable ride, a very pleasant breakfast (picnic) afterwards and a great day altogether.

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