Bothering Flies


October 18, 2014

“Do you have a fly swatter?” I almost laughed. Didn’t.

We were sitting in the shade of willow trees, talking. Water ran down tea glasses and wet rings grew on the wood picnic table. Folk lightly swatted at flies buzzing ears and arms. I hadn’t given my own swatting much thought as we talked about why paying less for physical work than for office work is an injustice.

It was June when I turned and answered, “Folk sometimes offer the suggestion that I should do something about the flies bothering the cows.” That didn’t seem to be the answer they were looking for, but I continued. “A Cow’s life is outside. Some seasons have more flies than others. Winter, for instance, there isn’t a fly for miles. Summer though, more flies than cow or human want. Thing is, just shy of nuking the cows with pesticides—with who know what residual effects—there’s always another fly to take the last ones place.”

I wonder when did we became a people of those blue glowing electric insect killers. Granted I don’t like flies or other insects—certainly mosquitoes—tenaciously buzzing my face. We all have our limit. But have we come to a time of believing we should not be inconvenienced or bothered, at all? I hope not.

Botherness makes life better. I’m not suggesting anyone should buy into that problematic theology, what won’t kill you will make you stronger or God won’t give you more than you can take. Rather, sometimes flies are a sign of a healthy environment. Instead of being out on pasture, farm steers could be in the sterility of a feedlot where there isn’t a blade of grass, a landscape of manure, and not a fly to be found. Pastured steers may be bothered by flies in the middle of the summer, have their tail in a constant swish, but they are ranging freely, eating grass and other plants, and drinking cool clean water. A little botherness is often good life.

Good life is owning a stout swatter for the in-of-doors and being bugged out-of-doors.


  1. David, I love this. And I shall be much more mindful and thankful for our flies. And our dog who faithfully, joyfully, dutifully catches each one that enters our home.


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