Peggy Bakken

Living a real-life idiom — those phrases that have both literal and figurative meanings — is a rewarding diversion for word nerds like me.

For example, last fall, on our road trip to the southwest, we stopped in Dodge City, Kansas, for part of an afternoon. Time was moving on, so I told Bruce, “It’s time to get out of Dodge!” I giggled. He groaned.

In December, we headed over to St. Paul Union Station for the holiday market and train rides with Santa. We watched as the Milwaukee Road 261, a locomotive built in 1944, moved away from the building and opened its side valves. The engine was letting off steam.

How about, “You got to get the lead out.” What Merriam Webster tells me is that it comes from horse racing, where apparently horses were sometimes loaded with lead to ensure that each horse is carrying the same weight.

I assume “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” dates to picking eggs in the chicken coop, my most hated childhood task. If, after getting pecked and poked by the chickens, you dropped the basket and broke all eggs, Mom would certainly have had a few literal words for you.

However, the idiom that haunts me now is, “they’re crawling out of the woodwork.”

For example, the sentence, “When Amanda won the lottery, she had relatives she hadn’t seen in decades crawling out of the woodwork.”

It’s not long-lost relatives for us. If you are suffering the same curse, you have already guessed what’s crawling along our windows and doors.

Boxelder bugs. Hundreds of boxelder bugs. Every. Day.

In the fall, the bugs cover the southwest side of my house, basking in the sun. As the weather turns cold, they indeed crawl into the woodwork, into any crack along a window or a door, or under the siding or trim. They hide in those cracks during the coldest months, then head out in search of warmth.

Every day I sweep the house for bugs with my cordless vacuum. Every day, another batch appears. Out comes the vacuum. The process repeats.

The scourge is continuing with our warmer weather. One window, blessed with afternoon sun, is often covered with 40 or 50 of those bugs.

On a warm October day last fall, when the bugs covered our light-colored siding, I went on the attack. First, I filled a spray bottle with a combination of dish soap and water and doused them. Then, got out the Shop Vac and sucked them up. Then, I took the leaf blower and sent them flying. I’m ruthless but not particularly successful.

The attack helps but does not eliminate those tiny, horrific creatures. Throughout winter and spring, they are literally crawling out of the woodwork and into our home. And I continue, literally and figuratively, to rid my home of these thorns in my side.

Somedays I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, but I put the pedal to the metal every day. So, if I play my cards right, maybe I can win the battle and the war. Off now to chase more bugs – we’ll see you on the flip side.

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