Ed: Chapter 2 part 3




The extinction of my species? This conversation sure turned dark in a hurry.  So much for a pleasant evening of sugar water and beer.


“I can’t wait to hear. Just let me grab my smokes and I’ll be right back.”


“Sam, have you ever wondered why you are addicted to nicotine?”


This is the second time today I’ve been asked that question.  As I recall, Bob said it has something to do with worms and hummingbirds. I think I prefer worms and hummingbirds to my extinction. I guess I’ll steer the conversation in that direction.


“Here you go, fresh house special. Hold that thought, and your roots, while I switch your glass. Ok, why do I smoke?”


“Sam, I have to hand it to you. You pour an honest drink. Let’s see, about a million years ago wild tobacco plants, like most of the rest of us, were bothered by insects. They crawled around on their stems, chewed holes in their leaves and were just irritating as hell.”


Probably not as irritating as this guys story. I bet I could meet Frenchie for last call. Not a good idea. As bad as this is, it beats a night in jail…maybe.


“Sounds dreadful. So that’s why I smoke?”


“I’m getting to that. One day, quite by accident, a tobacco plant started producing nicotine as a byproduct of its normal photosynthesis. Turns out the nicotine killed any insect that ate the leaves.  But, it was even better than that. The nicotine was addictive. They loved it! They ate and ate until they dropped dead. Problem solved.”


I’m amazed. Thanks to Dr. Bob’s garden talks, I actually understand what this guy is saying. The tobacco plant makes food from the sunlight and some of the leftover stuff ends up being nicotine. They toss a little crack cocaine into the mix and pretty soon all the bugs are gone.


“So us smokers are just innocent bystanders?”


“More like collateral damage. Along with a few rabbits and an occasional groundhog, I suppose. Life was good until the hawk moths showed up.”


Of course… the hawk moths. There’s always someone that shows up to spoil the party.


“What about the hawk moths?”



“They were the best pollinators. Everyone loved them. They would show up every evening in a huge swarm. They looked like little miniature hummingbirds bouncing from flower to flower. In a single evening one moth could pollinate more flowers than could ten bees in an entire day. The wild tobacco plants were certainly blessed, or so they thought.”


“So, what went wrong?”


 “Every night, before they left, each moth would lay a few eggs.”


What could be so wrong with that? They loved the moths. More eggs, more moths, it’s all good. What’s not good is my beer has gone warm. I might as well grab another glass for my little friend while I’m up.


“Here you go. Hang on to your roots while I switch you over. You know, I really don’t see a problem.”


“Neither did they until the eggs hatched. The moth’s babies were hornworms. Hornworms are nasty. The hornworms were immune to the nicotine, but not to the addiction. They ate the plants with a vengeance. The wild tobacco’s screams could be heard the world over through the root-net, and at night everyone could smell their blood. They were being eaten alive. That was a bad time for the wild tobacco plants.”


So now I’m feeling sorry for the tobacco industry? I’m fairly certain a few survived.


“So what happened?”


“Oh, the wasps saved them. These days when a hornworm eats a tobacco plant, the wasps smell the plants distress pheromones and dispatch the worm. They lay their eggs in the worm and the wasp’s larvae eat the hornworm from the inside out. Takes about a week.”


I’m done. I’m done with on line dating. I’m done with talking radishes. I might even be done with beer.


“I’m hitting the sack. Anything you need before I turn in?”


“Nope, get some rest. I think tomorrow we need to take a  trip.”


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