Commentary – June in mosquito country

Joe McWilliams

“June is the best month,” I wrote in this space several years ago.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. It’s certainly the best if you don’t like sleeping.

Because with the sun coming up at 4 a.m., and ravens and magpies squawking outside your window at some ungodly hour, you won’t be getting much.

June is also the best month if you like bugs; they explode in numbers. I wonder if anybody has ever attempted to count them. Birds come north in the billions for the insect smorgasbord. So if there are billions of birds, there must be trillions of insects. At least! We love the birds but hate the bugs that bring the birds.

It’s a dilemma and life is full of them. June certainly has its share of contradictions. It can be beautiful. Wild roses bloom, temperatures are pleasant, gardens grow, etc., etc.

On the other hand, the twin threats of forest fire and flood are looming.

We want rain… but not too much!

We love hot weather…but not too hot and not too dry!

We love the long days…but we can’t get enough sleep!

So it goes. Then there’s the endless fickleness of human behaviour that comes into the mix. Sitting around the campfire and talking about the craziness of the world [which you can do for maybe two weeks in the spring without it being either too cold or too infested with mosquitoes] somebody will eventually make the following wisecrack: “The world would be such a great place if it wasn’t for people.”

Ha, ha!

Looks as if we’re stuck with them, or rather that the world is stuck with us!

One good [or bad] thing about June is it brings travelers to our neck of the woods. Not in big numbers, but inevitably someone from another country or even continent will wander through, usually on their way to somewhere else. It can be fun and interesting to talk to them. What seems completely ordinary and unremarkable to you may be new and strange to them.

Here’s an example: a young couple from Belgium recently spent a few weeks in Alberta, including some time in and around Slave Lake. They are on their way farther north. One of the most curious things to them was all the young people they saw driving around in huge pickup trucks. They didn’t say what they thought about it – just that it seemed very strange and surprising – not at all what they had imagined.

The other outstanding feature of our fair province to these visitors was how clean the air is! In spite of all those pickup trucks [not to pick on pickups, but there are an awful lot of them] and other things running all the time.

Relatively speaking, this part of the world is still mostly empty space, as far as human occupation goes.

Belgium, which is about 1/22 the size of Alberta, has more than twice the population. You can’t throw a rock without hitting the next town [to badly paraphrase Mark Twain].

Looking at it another way, Belgium has 376 people per square kilometre, whereas here we have an average of only six people per square km.

And it still seems crowded!

Here’s another comparison: Alberta’s urban/rural population split is estimated to be 81 per cent to 19 per cent. The long-term trend there – as everyone knows – is away from rural toward urban. A century or so ago it would have been roughly the reverse of what it is now.

In Belgium, two per cent of the population is rated as rural.

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