Longing for summer’s sound … crickets

Published 6:54 pm Friday, June 7, 2019

I really do miss crickets. I miss them!

They were undoubtedly the most inaccessible creatures of my growing up here, and also the loudest and the most punctual, not just seasonal, but precisely punctual, contemporaneous creatures, in all their daily comings and goings-on.

Whatever happened to them? I don’t hear them now.

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I have checked with people the same age as me, and they don’t hear them anymore either. They remember hearing, but not seeing them, come out of nowhere in the late afternoon or early evening every day with that incessant and enchanting sound. But they don’t hear them anymore. Nobody seems to hear them anymore.

I thought it due to growing old and losing hearing. But it’s not that. They just don’t seem to be around us anymore.

So, naturally, I asked the wiser, older people what that was. And they said “Crickets, rubbing their legs together.” And I said, “What?” And what 8-year-old could resist an effort to see if s(he) could replicate that sound?

Anyway, crickets were once part of our lives here. And while it’s still possible to glimpse a lightning bug or two, you hardly ever hear a cricket.

So this is what I’ve learned in the years since!

It’s a mating call; a love song; a romance. And it’s not legs; it’s wings, specifically male wings since only male crickets can chirp and are responsible for that sound. That addictive sound is the result of their rubbing their wings together, apparently irresistible to the lady crickets.

Now my reaction is to blame climate change for this. But you begin to understand my trauma when you recall how totally reliable they once were, and now they’re not. Something happened. And now the baby crickets may be in decline.

There is a terrifying theatrical moment near the end of Tom Stoppard’s play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” There they are on stage, throwing a ball or something back and forth. And some voice says in all that rampant activity, “Now you see him; now you… And before that last word can be uttered, all the lights go out and the whole theater — actors, audience, and all — are in total darkness. And that is how it ends.

The absence of the crickets is like that to me. “Now you hear them; now you don’t.” And in an instant, the whole world changes.

I know that much of this, and maybe most, is science. In fact, a post-doctoral fellow in sensory biology recently wrote about cells, frequencies, and temperatures and their effects on the behavior of crickets.

But what I know is that they appear long lost to us who were children then and walked on summer evenings to “oooh-shop” with some accompanying adult (“oooh-shop” being our equivalent to grown-up “window-shopping”) when you could only look at things you knew you couldn’t have.

The same way I wait on summer evenings for their sounds to come.

They never do.

I miss them though.

I really do.

Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post. Her column appears in each weekend edition.