The Human Termites


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Last night, at 2:30 am there was a loud crash that interrupted the sleep of most of my neighborhood. The flashlights scoured the area like a well-cleaned cooking pot, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. Ron thought it was a crash landing of the German satellite, due to hit Earth last night. “Space junk,” he yawned and fell back into a deep sleep. Cory thought it was a spaceship. I guessed the Mango tree had fallen into Cory’s house. Our neighbors thought maybe Vulcan Concepcion had erupted.

With the light of dawn, I saw that a giant limb had fallen off an enormous tree behind our property. The heavy rains must have weakened the tree. “Time for the human termites to do their job,” I yawned.

Last September, after a strong wind storm, a huge dead tree fell into the lake obstructing my view and messing up my beautiful beach. I hired two men to cut the tree and they arrived early in the morning armed with machetes, strong backs, and an ancient ax.

They parked the horse cart beside my beach chair hoping to load the wood into the wagon and cart it off for firewood. “How much will this cost?” I asked apprehensively because it looked like a huge job. “Five dollars,” they responded.

At dawn’s first light, they waded into the warm water and proceeded to whack at each limb with their well-worn machetes. Machismo at its finest!

Meanwhile, Marina, my neighbor, ran over to my house wearing a black velvet party dress and smelling of strong flowery perfume…at 6 o’clock in the morning. Her 77 yr. old husband, Don Jose, has been in Rivas all week with his sick sister. “What are they going to do with all that wood?” she asked. “I told them to haul it off,” I said. “How much are you paying them to cut the tree?” Marina inquired. Discovering that I was paying them 5 dollars, she screamed, “Oh, muy caro!” Very expensive.

“Don Jose isn’t here, and I need wood for my cooking fire.” she exclaimed. “Can I help to pay if we take the wood?” Knowing that my neighbors are very poor ( I had to lend Don Jose $10 to visit his gravely ill sister in Rivas) I said, “I don’t want you to pay. I’ll tell the machete men that you can have the wood.” So, the machete man sent for his 7-year-old to take the horse cart back home.

Within an hour, they had most of the small branches cut off the dead tree and hauled ashore. “How much more do you want us to cut?” they yelled across the dead tree to where I was snapping pictures of their toothless grins. “I want more of the dead trunk cut.” I yelled back. After much debate and a demonstration of where I wanted the trunk cut, they said, “Oh, but it will cost you more money because the trunk is very thick.” “How much more?” I asked.” Five more dollars,” they said kind of apologetically.

So they grabbed the ancient ax and began to cut the thick trunk. Within another hour, they had most of the thick trunk hacked away. The wood was piled up on the beach and Marina’s father,and her son, Julio, carried the piles of wood to their house.

While they were hacking away at the trunk, Marina brought refreshments for all of us, warm bread from the local tienda and pinole drink ( Marina drinks this every morning instead of coffee).

A few more whacks with the ancient ax and their work was done. Not a bad day’s wages for 2 hours of work. Soon, the little termites swarmed to the beach to collect the wood for their cooking stove.Grandpa joined in the collection, and in no time at all, the beach was cleared.

The human termites were remarkable. For $10 I had my incredible view and a clean beach. My wonderful neighbors had enough firewood for a month of cooking. And best of all, we shared our blessings with our lovely community.

Looks like we’ll have to hire the human termites again!