(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her daughter, Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
We always called them dirt daubers.
I looked up that term on Wikipedia and found this family of wasps is more often referred to as mud daubers. That must be a less Southern designation since I never heard it before. Either way, we all know what they are---those slender-shaped flying creatures that are, for the most part, not aggressive like their cousins and build interesting nests.
My mother, who was interested in everything, became occupied for awhile with dirt daubers. Now this was not an entomological interest. It was, instead, an artistic interest, a craft of sorts. Mother took a notion that dirt dauber nests would make nice wall hangings.
We children were amused and perplexed. Mother was not the sort to take an interest in crafts, for heaven’s sake. But she did.
Of course, the nests are too fragile to hang without some stability, so Mother decided driftwood pieces would make nice backings for the mud art. When we went to the beach for Thanksgiving, we spent hours searching for small pieces of driftwood, preferably flat on one side to hold the nest and beautifully sanded by nature’s woodworking shop. We brought back hundreds of perfect stabilizers for Mother’s new project and stored them in her garage.
She would carefully glue the nest onto a piece of driftwood, and she would add to the effect by putting dried flowers in the cylindrical tube. Then she’d make a hanging hole in the top of the wood with a hot ice pick. She thought they were splendid creations.
Mother sold her “Dirt Dauber Dabblings” alongside her books at various art shows. I think she charged $5 for them. She also gave them as Christmas presents and as tokens to visitors who came by to see her. This lasted about a year. Then she lost interest and never made another piece.
After she died and we were clearing out the garage at her home in Selma, we came across a huge garbage bag of beautiful driftwood pieces. The dirt dauber nests had long since crumbled into sand. But it made me remember the iota of time my mother became an artist.
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"Some people are important to intellectuals, journalists, or politicians, but Kathryn Tucker Windham is probably the only person I know in Alabama who is important to everybody."
–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Dilcy Windham Hilley
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