The aquatic underpants of Mississippi County

The story you are about to read is based on real events, involved real people, and is as old as the human race. I have debated on the best way to tell the story: graphic novel, movie, a scientific paper in PNAS, opera, or epic poem – in truth the story will eventually be told all these ways.  Currently, the story is part of the oral tradition of Dorena – a small community in Mississippi County Missouri. This is a story of happier times, before the Army Engineers blew up the levee and flooded the land, way back in 2007…


Like many epic entomology stories, this story involves Ted MacRae and the sorts of things that happen in the field that you simply can’t invent. This is the first public telling of the story in print.

Ted and I were looking for Cylindera curistans, but The Mississippi River was high and some of the habitat was flooded. There was a small area of beach at the Dorena ferry landing that was not flooded and we decided to see what tiger beetles might be using this area. A father, son and daughter were fishing in the swollen river adjacent to the beach. The son was about seven years old and was immediately drawn to what we doing. When he found out we were looking for beetles he got right in Ted’s face and explained to him: “the beetles on this beach are really fast, you get up close to them and WHOOSH they run away”. I really enjoyed watching one of North America’s top tiger beetle guys getting schooled about tiger beetles. Ted thanked the youngster for the information and after some polite small talk went back to searching the beach for beetles. Watching entomologists work is about as exciting as watching paint dry, so the son went back to fishing after pronouncing chasing tiger beetles to be weird.

Soon after picking his fishing rod up, the son had a bite and set the hook – fish on! The kid’s fishing rod was bent as he excitedly reeled in line. His sister and dad prepared to help him land this leviathan of the river. As the fish was nearing the shore, it wasn’t quite right. When the kid brought his hook out of the water, there attached to the hook was underwear with a Superman insignia that looked to be just about the kid’s size. The kid took the underwear off the hook, but before he could release them back into the Mississippi, his father said: “Son, you caught ’em; now you got to wear ’em.” The son started crying and his sister started laughing.

And the poor kid thought chasing tiger beetles was weird…


11 thoughts on “The aquatic underpants of Mississippi County

  1. George Sims

    I don’t know if that’d make the cover of Coleopterists Journal, but I’ll BET “Scarabs” will use it!!!


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