It rained three days this week. As Debra in the church office said, it always rains in late May and usually on Memorial Day weekend; maybe this year we got the rain out of the way before the long weekend. After three days of rain, you’d expect a nice crop of mosquitoes to hatch out. But not in the Bay area. The few mosquitoes that do come around whine listlessly around your ear, and when you swat at them, and miss, they apologize for bothering you and fly away. If you go hiking up into some of the undeveloped canyons and ridge tops around the Bay area, it’s a different story. As you dodge the poison oak branches that actively try to swat you in the face, fast little iron-gray mosquitoes fly at you while you’re distracted, and drill their red-hot proboscises into your arteries.
When those vicious iron-gray mosquitoes attack you, you believe the stories of the early residents of Palo Alto, who complained that the town was a vile place to live: every time it rained, the streets turned into a muddy mess, and the fleas and mosquitoes made life miserable. There are credible stories of children getting sucked down into the mud and lost forever. As for the mosquitoes, they were much bigger back then: two working together could pick up a small dog and carry it off, and four could drain enough blood out of a big man to leave him ghostly pale and unconscious. In San Mateo County, mosquitoes were among the first registered voters back in 1856 when the county split from San Francisco. The county had only 2,000 human residents; women and children weren’t allowed to vote, yet 1,600 votes were cast in the first election, many by mosquitoes. It is said that the only reason San Mateo County politics eventually got cleaned up was that the swamps got drained, and the mosquitoes mostly died off.