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Sitting on the back porch steps, waiting for the dogs to do their 'business', I noticed a little movement inches from my head. A bright yellowjacket crouched on the wooden railing, moving slightly, taking tiny steps backwards. As I got closer, I observed its task: it opens its jaws, stuck out a yellow 'tooth' (maybe 'tongue') and scraped the railing, exposing the lighter unoxidized wood underneath. The tongue went back in, the bug moved a small step back and did it again. The bug is biting off little chunks of wood and chewing it up to make pulp for hive construction. I'm so close my nose is almost touching the bug, but it didn't mind.

Suddenly it took off, bumping into my forehead before flying away. I looked closer and saw dozens of little half-inch long shallow grooves of light-colored wood.

The yellowjackets, at an infintesimaly slow pace, are stealing my deck to build their home.

A month ago, my wife and I walked down to the demolition of Pioneer East and took a brick for my own memories of the building. It was night, so we weren't concerned about being caught or hassled for taking a brick that was hours away from the dump.

For a few weeks, a small pile of bricks laid at the edge of the Idlekope building's lot and the railroad tracks. At four in the afternoon -- with people all around, and in front of the building's large windows -- I picked up a brick and walked, painfully and obviously with the intent of inconspicuousness, back to the van. We headed off.

Walking in a Wisconsin creek last weekend, the kids found an odd bright-colored rock in the water. Wiping off the muck and slime, it was identified: an old brick, broken off at one edge. It was quickly claimed as nautical salvage and given to me as an impromptu gift.

I guess, as far as borrowing inconsequential chunks of other people's buildings go, the yellowjackets are doing a better job of being constructive with their stealings. They benefit from having all day long and a whole army to do their borrowing; maybe, if I spent all day absconding with abandoned bricks, I might have enough to build a house of my own someday. The yellowjackets, sadly, don't have the internet or rummage sales because their free time is occupied with chewing up people's homes, so I guess I'll just accept that the tradeoff comes at the expense of casual hobbies. If the yellowjackets were able to work for a reasonable wage and rent a nice home for their family, they might have time for a card game once in a while.

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