SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Once while walking around my neighborhood I passed a weekend farmer in his fairly large garden, and I noticed that he was munching on a just-picked tomato as he leisurely tended his crops. Wondering about the wisdom of eating unwashed fruit I commented on his carelessness only to be told that he never used insecticides, feeling that the bugs could eat as much as they wanted and he would have whatever they left over. What a decent and intelligent guy I thought, caring more for the environment than for any incidental food he grew for his table.
When my wife and I bought our first home, the seller gave me a tip to mix a quart of Chlordane (a very potent poison) with two gallons of water and sprinkle it around the house foundation every spring in order to prevent any termite infestation. It certainly worked and I religiously followed his advice until one year when the product was banned for being too dangerous for indiscriminate use by amateurs, and though it possibly put my house at risk I couldn’t fault the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision since other chemicals such as DDT and Merthiolate had also been taken off the market for posing real hazards to humans and wildlife. I myself may be sensible but my neighbors are intellectually challenged, even if they have college educations and can supposedly read.
One Sunday morning while mowing my lawn I noticed an across-the-street neighbor spraying his lovely 12 foot high ornamental crabapple tree. Of course he wasn’t wearing protective clothing or a mask and the breeze was blowing more mist on him than on the leaves. Seeing him later that afternoon I asked what he had been using, finding out that it was Lindane, a pesticide that’s absorbed by leaves and branches but also by human skin. The guy should have been locked up for his own protection.
Perhaps that side of the street had more than its share of numbskulls because a short while later another across-the-street neighbor planted a very attractive flower bed in front of his house using railroad ties as a border. Obviously having been advised to coat the wood for protection against insects he merrily splashed a liberal amount of Creosote all over the ties and himself, totally unaware that the preservative was a powerful acid that can cause burning, headaches, shivering, and nausea. Like the other genius, this one also wore just a t-shirt and shorts and since the liquid had splattered on his arms and legs, he spent that night in extreme agony from the very itchy rash that ensued. Not only didn’t he wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt, he didn’t even have the common sense to wash the stuff off his skin afterwards.
Stories like these are told all the time and the more outrageous the circumstances the more believable they are. It’s unfortunate that everyone can’t be as smart as me, though putting a chain saw in my hands is admittedly like giving me a machine gun with an unlimited amount of ammunition. Nothing and no one is safe.