7. Trouble Came on the Wing
AMONG the annoyances common
to man and beast in Michigan, of which we knew nothing where we came
from, were some enormous flies. There were two kinds that were terrible
pests to the cattle. They actually ate the hide off, in spots. First we
put turpentine, mixed with sufficient grease so as not to take the hair
off, on those spots. But we found that fish oil was better, the flies
would not bite where that was.
What we called the ox-flies were the most troublesome. In hot weather
and in the sun, where the mosquitoes didn't trouble, they were most
numerous. They would light on the oxen in swarms, on their brisket, and
between their legs where they could not drive them off. I have
frequently struck these flies with my hand and by killing them got my
hand red with the blood of the ox.
The other species of
flies, we called Pontiacers. This is a Michigan name, and originated I
was told, from one being caught near Pontiac with a paper tied or
attached to it having the word Pontiac written upon it.
These flies were not very
numerous; sometimes there were three or four around at once. When they
were coming we could hear and see them for some rods. Their fashion was
to circle around the oxen before lighting on them. I frequently slapped
them to kill them, sometimes I caught them, in that case they were apt
to lose their heads, proboscis and all. These flies were very large,
some were black and some of the largest were whitish on the front of the
back. I have seen some of them nearly as large as young humming birds.
The Germans tell me they have this kind of fly in Germany. But with the
mosquitoes, these flies have nearly disappeared.
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