The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the name of the third book in Stifg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but I believe that title should belong to me. Perhaps even a plaque or trophy engraved with those words should be sitting on my fireplace mantle.
Part way through my third grade year, my family moved from Hinckley to Pleasant Grove, Utah while my dad worked on a large construction job. I attended the rest of the school year at Central Elementary School, but our Pleasant Grove home sold sooner than my parents anticipated, so we had to move into an intermediary place for the summer. We rented a trailer next to the Provo River from June to August while dad finished his work commitment. Most of our belongings (including all our toys and books) were packed in preparation for the final move back to Hinckley at the end of August. It started out as the most boring summer of my life.
My brother, Jim, found a trailer-park friend to play with, but I had no one. So, I spent many weeks sitting by the river throwing rocks and sticks into the water and looking for fish and frogs. Within days of moving in, a bad storm blew a hornet nest out of a tree between our trailer and the river's bank. The next morning I saw the gray, papery nest, which was about 10 inches long and shaped like a fat football with a large split along one side laying on the ground. I gave it a wide berth because it made buzzing sounds and had a cloud of insects hovering around it. As the weeks went by; however, it grew quiet and I no longer noticed hornets attending it.
One morning, I must have been feeling especially frustrated about living in a trailer down by the river because as I walked through the muddy grass, I decided I was sick of walking around that old, abandoned nest lying in my pathway and I gave it a mighty kick. My bare foot sunk deep through the papery layers of the nest as it lifted off the ground and into the air, tearing apart as it flew. Hornets poured out of the shattered mess looking for the culprit who had just destroyed their home.
I was instantly engulfed in a swarm. Stings were coming so fast and furious all I could do was run, scream, and swing my arms. I was wailing like a siren as I tore up the hill and down the road. It must have been quite a spectacle for all the neighbors to see a skinny kid screaming and running through the trailer park surrounded by a horde of enraged insects.
My mom heard my shrieks and was out the door to meet me. Quite a few hornets were still attached as she brought me into the trailer. An hour later, my entire body was encased in baking soda plasters and I was on my bed trying to find the least painful position to lie. There were too many red, swelling bumps to count; I remember there were even stings between my toes and fingers.
I have not read the Larsson book with the same title as the misfortune I encountered that summer day in 1970, but I am willing to bet that if Stifg Larsson's character kicked anything as volatile as the hornet's nest I found, we both learned the same lesson and will never do that again.