Remembering the Mosquito Man

Published 5:43 pm Monday, May 31, 2021

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Milt and I recently spent an enjoyable evening with some dear friends while eating a wonderful seafood dinner.  We dined outside in a beautifully built gazebo in our friend’s backyard.  I remarked that I was amazed how mosquito-free the entire evening was, and how I was only bitten twice. I am by nature mosquito bait. They love me. Milt and I spend a lot of time outside on our patio on summer evenings. Unless I am coated with a tremendous amount of Off bug spray, I am devoured by them in minutes. Milt may get bitten every now and then.


I mentioned how for some reason mosquitos have always been a problem for me, and there was only one thing I hated more than mosquito bites as a child.  It was the Mosquito Man!  I was terrified of him. He was also called by some in the community ‘The Skeeter Man.’ The name may make you believe the Mosquito Man was the one who was the subject of a movie about a scientist trying to find a cure for the West Nile Virus, or an evil scientist that infects a man with a deadly mosquito borne virus in a 2013 movie. But for locals it was neither.


The Mosquito Man was Beaufort County’s attempt at mosquito control.  He drove (as I can remember) a pick-up type truck with a huge device we called the mosquito machine that sprayed a huge blast of white looking fog or smoke thru the streets. While on his route in my neighborhood, he would often stop near the pecan trees on our block to enshroud the area with a double blast of the mosquito killer.  The pecan trees were very near my house which only added to my angst.


The roar of the machine announced the Mosquito Man was coming which gave me a chance to find refuge under my bed. It also announced to other kids in my neighborhood to get ready to chase the truck. Some kids rode their bikes or skated behind the truck. Other kids danced or chased the truck, having a great time in the mysterious fog.


Mysterious to many neighborhood residents because nobody could actually tell us what mix of chemicals was in the insecticide. We later learned it was DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) which was banned in 1972 by the EPA as a carcinogen. Can you believe kids actually played in that stuff?


Many of my neighbors would open their windows and doors hoping the fog would come inside their houses and kill the inside mosquitos. The fog coming thru my house as I hid only added to my fear of it.


Once I could no longer hear the roar of the mosquito machine, I would come outside on my porch. When the other kids would tell me of all the fun they had chasing the Mosquito Man, I was not impressed.  When they would ask me why I didn’t come outside to play in the fog, I would tell them I had to finish washing dishes or some other chore. I made sure I would have other excuses ready for the Mosquito Man’s next visit.