I enrolled in an entomology course offered by the University of Maryland. I knew that a few science credits couldn't do any harm and, thinking logically I thought, that a memory course should mean a fairly easy grade. So, armed with pen, notepaper, and an expensive, thin textbook that should have been bound in Morocco leather, but wasn't; I confidently reported to my first class.
The first hour we reviewed the course syllabus and my flawless logic about an easy memory course was soon shattered.
"As you can see," said the instructor, "fifty percent of your grade constitutes a collection of at least twenty different insects from at least ten different orders."
"You have to be kidding!" I exclaimed, jokingly.
"Not in the least," retorted the professor. "In fact, you can receive extra credit if you can also bring a spider or a centipede to class." He added, almost as an afterthought, "I hope you didn't think this course would be all memory work."
"Oh, of course not, sir," I said as I slumped down at the desk in a mild state of shock.
I could visualize myself traipsing through the countryside, butterfly net in hand, capturing all kinds of creeping, six-legged creatures. I could sense the disgust I would probably feel when I killed the poor, wriggling things and, worse yet, stuck pins through their bodies to transfix the little beasts inside a collection box. I mean, it just didn't seem right, and besides, people would see me running around like an idiot and would think that I was "buggy"!
"This can't be happening to me," I thought, and grudgingly resigned myself to my fate as the smiling, bespectacled professor passed out collection boxes, bottles, and long, slender pins.
Somewhat exasperated, I purchased a butterfly net the next afternoon and formulated a brilliant plan. Shrewdly, I presented the net to my adoring seven-year-old daughter.
"Please find me some 'bugs' sweetheart," I convincingly asked. "I've had a hard day today and need to take a nap."
"Oh sure, Daddy," she answered, probably thinking that I had finally gone over the edge.
Dutifully she ventured forth, all too happy to please her "flaky" father; not aware that "Daddy", feeling only a little guilty, was reclining on the sofa, planning how to display the insects his daughter brought home. She returned three hours later, proudly bearing a dirty, frayed butterfly net and a large pickle jar full of assorted grasshoppers and an occasional frog. Crestfallen, I executed the best Orthoptera (grasshopper) in my killing bottle and carefully released the remainder of the crawling things to take their chances with any other diligent seven-year-old who might be out trying to please a father.
Once again resigned to my fate, I took butterfly net in shaking hand and began my insect collection. I roamed through the fields, looked under rocks, and beleaguered every flower bed in the neighborhood. I was attacked by a huge yellow and black hornet, punctured by mosquitoes, buzzed by dragonflies, and suffered the indignities of laughing, pointing spectators; but I persevered. Day and night I searched, found, executed, and, with grimacing hesitance, pinned insect after insect into the collection box until I had the required numbers and kinds. Now I could retire the tattered remains of my butterfly net into the nearest trash can and could be satisfied that I had accomplished the impossible.
Spiders and centipedes for extra credit? Forget it! I mean, that's too much to ask -- isn't it?