There were five of us on the trail crew that day. We were all new to the job, so when we gathered around to hear the assignment for the day, we were delighted to learn that we would start on a new trail—Clegg Canyon they called it.
“You mean Fly Canyon?” replied Verle, our fearless leader.
“Why Fly Canyon?” I asked.
With a sly smile, Verle looked down at me and said, “You’ll see.”
While we unloaded the Jeep, Verle filled us in on what work needed to be done. At last we were ready to start the trail. As we walked, Verle kept reminding us that this trail was considered one of the most miserable assignments because of the flies, but we couldn’t see any flies, so taking him seriously was a little hard. Verle had a way of pulling your leg at times, and I was usually a gullible victim. But today, he assured us, once the sun was out, the flies would be too.
As we hiked up farther into the canyon, we soon came to realize how right Verle was. At first the flies came in pairs, buzzing around my ears and making quick landings on my nose. Then they became bolder, so we were sure they had called out their battalions. I had considered myself a patient person until then. Every 30 minutes we had to stop and recoat ourselves with insect repellent. We especially had to drench our hair to keep the pests from getting entangled. When we began to realize that our efforts to avoid the flies were in vain, we began to lose our tempers.
It finally came to the point where we knew we were doomed. The newspaper headlines flashed through my mind, “Forest Service Employees Carried Away by Flies.” Something had to be done quickly. We tried to work faster, believing motion would shoo the flies away, but our sweat made a more delectable landing. As all good news travels fast, more flies came. In desperation we turned to our leader, who, surprisingly, was taking this all very coolly. He explained that we had to learn how to relax and laugh at annoying situations.
“What is so humorous about 50 million flies attacking us?” I asked.
“Look at it this way. They could carry us through the canyon and save us the trouble of hiking up the trail,” Verle replied.
While we sat eating our lunches (it was more like sharing them with the United Fly Nation), we began to relax and develop a humor of our own. At first the laughter was scarce, but one joke led to another, and we were soon lying back in laughter, oblivious to the millions of black specs around us.
That morning we had loaded the tools that were expected to be useful in completing our assignment. But as we headed down the trail that afternoon, we carried with us a new tool—humor.
On the way down to the Jeep, we were rewarded with a sudden cloudburst that finally rid us of our pests. Free at last, we skipped down the trail like children, grinning from ear to ear. We had survived! But, more important, we had laughed.