By Ed Tasca


cutter_march2011Our garden, a lovely house-front apron of flowering plants, shrubs and fruit trees, has been under siege by cutter ants, with no hope of a diplomatic settlement. They’ve been turning new and old-growth vegetation into confetti for weeks and carrying it through endless parades over my garden day and night. What’s worse, they couldn’t have been more conspicuous and brazen about it if they were wearing plumed medieval helmets.

And for some reason unbeknown to God or man, they will not touch my weeds. “I hear the queen loves a good weed snack on occasion,” I think I yelled out one evening.

Someone once told me their trail of troops can extend miles. I did some extrapolating and discovered that creatures the size of splinters organizing a parade one mile long is the equivalent of humans marching around the circumference of the earth carrying some ridiculous amount of trail mix over our heads  – without ever stopping to eat it. It was the last straw as I watched the dauntless troopers carry portions of my mango tree over my shoetips whistling, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary!

Bring in the gardener. My gardener just shrugged and drizzled a few ounces of gasoline into the entrances to their nests and went home.


This just seemed to give them a psychotropic, methanol high and the late night nibbles. I could have been imagining it because it was getting dark, but I think they actually began growing in size. At that, I even lost the courage to stomp on them for fear of being leg swept into the air and dumped on my head.

Bring in second garderner. Patrone. (Poison.) “They like the taste of it. They take it to the nest and the whole pack of them dies,” my second gardener said. And yes, he was right, they liked the taste of it, and they did take it to their nest. But instead of wiping them out, I believe they had a fiesta. “Hey, is there any more of that Patrone left?” I swore I heard them yelling up the line at 3 AM.

With all patience gone, I went and found myself a bruja (witch, for those needing subtitles). The invasion happened so paranormally sudden, what else could it be but the evil eye (mal de ojo), a common belief in Mexico. I know who the perpetrator was too – that weird guy sitting in his truck trying to sell me manure: “Manure?”, “No, gracias.” “Es bueno!”, Hoy, no.”, half-hour later, Caramba, a plague of insects! That’s how fast it  happens.

My bruja, a blessed Huichol woman, claimed to have the power to treat victims of the evil eye and, later in the day, do some laundry – a full return to my tranquil Buena Vibra and a bundle of whites for a tiny fee. Perfect!

The first thing she did was take a camote (sweet potato), and sculpt it into a face, which she said was me – something she called a blessed milagro. (Yes, I was now suspended in some paranormal dimension in the form of Mr. Potato Head.”

My medium sat with my effigy in her lap and chanted incantations over it while she breast-fed her baby. I was okay with that, until the bruja’s cat began gnawing off the top of my right effigy temple. I became concerned, because, frankly, I was getting a weird headache right around my right eye. I still had hope that the ants were getting a good scolding from the gods and packing up to leave.

Finally, my enchanted medium, baby asleep, asked that I take the camote home and bury it, and the cutter ants would disappear. I agreed to do this, but when I arrived home, I found burying my own Mr. Potato Head likeness, especially a Mr. Potato Head that might have contained a part of my spirit, an affront to the Enlightment. So, unable to bury the tuberous likeness, I cooked it up into a batch of pancakes instead, and washed it all down with a fine Anejo, followed by another and then another.

In the end, I was feeling pretty good, and in no time, believe it or not, I was directing cutter ant traffic. Live and let live, I thought. And, here’s the surprising thing! The ants suddenly disappeared on their own. Obviously, the bruja knew her stuff. Of course, there is nothing left of my garden and several neighbors have been dropping off their basura into what is now my vacant field. But the ants are gone!

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