I guess I shouldn't have been that
After all, landing on
the "No Spray List" in the first place had been no easy task. When
we phoned the mosquito control district last spring, our decision
was immediately called into question. First, the drawl on the other
end of the line asked us point-blank why we wanted to be on the
list. That we have a large garden/small farm and a 2-year-old
roaming the property didn't seem to do the trick. He remained
unconvinced and seemed to be carefully guarding the list. When we
refused to budge, he pulled out the heavy artillery, informing us
that all of our neighbors had specifically requested that
insecticide be sprayed on their properties.
"You can get on the list
if you want," we were finally told. "But I can't make any promises.
If the wind blows, your property's just going to get sprayed
The conversation ended
with us asking, for a third time, to have our address added to the
roster. The phones finally hung up and I tried to forget about
permethrin and malathion for a few months.
However, my sense of
security seemed hopelessly thin late last Friday night as I pulled
toward our driveway and what appeared to be a fully involved fire.
Narrowing our eyes, my wife Rachael and I looked over a white plume
that was nearly 60 feet tall and growing. Centered in the vicinity
of our front yard, its location was cause for more than a little
concern. Things got even stranger when the smoke slowly moved
toward us. What could it be, I blindly asked myself. Burning car,
spontaneous fireball, ghostly apparition and crashed alien
spacecraft all briefly entered the picture. Then as the rolling fog
was nearly on us and became transparent, the answer became obvious.
"Quick! Roll up all the windows," I shouted, nearly waking up my
daughter from her car seat slumber.
The seals connected just
in time, and the large spray truck drove past our front yard, four
fruit trees, one of our gardens, my daughter's play set and our
car's entire left side. The thick cloud obscured all sight. Fearing
a trip into the ditch, I slowed almost to a halt as the mist
settled on the windshield, the hood and all of the side windows.
The acrid odor mysteriously penetrated the closed windows and
filled the cab of the car. Suddenly, the headlights broke through
the white, the cloud dissipated and our freshly sprayed driveway
rose up to greet us. In my rear view, the spray continued down the
road, an uninterrupted rooster tail of insecticide covering the
The district manager's
voice echoed in the back of my mind. "I can't make any
I've heard plenty of
other stories about broken promises over the past few months.
There's the guy whose "No Spray List" status also vanished when his
entire downtown Durango neighborhood was sprayed. There's the
organic farmer in the Animas Valley who lost his certification and
livelihood after his patch was sprayed without permission. And
there's the familiar case of the woman whose property, garden and
body were all sprayed despite her efforts to wave off the truck as
it approached in broad daylight.
Ironically, Rachael and
I took mosquito control seriously before getting sprayed last
Friday (and who knows how many other times). Last summer, a friend
our age got stung by the wrong mosquito, and we watched as he spent
a couple months getting hammered by the West Nile Virus.
Consequently, we devoted countless hours to eliminating tall
grasses over the course of recent months. On a daily basis, we
traversed our couple acres on patrols for standing water. In
general, we took the West Nile situation seriously and had no
interest in experimenting with the virus.
We also joined, or
thought we joined, the "No Spray List" for good reasons. We had no
interest in having ourselves, our land, our food or our 2-year-old
sprayed with insecticide. One look at and taste of that deep fog
last Friday night only reinforced these already strong
And the next time that
cloud of chemicals blows through my neighborhood and onto my
property, I will try to rationally pick up the phone and politely
lodge a complaint with the mosquito control district. But then
again, I'm not sure I can make any promises.