The Writing Traveler: Attack of the Berserker Cannibal Horseflies by Brian Dowsley
February 11, 2021
Deep within the bowels of Palo Duro Canyon, where the sun never shines and the air is dank and putrid, lived a clan of horseflies.
Pushing my white Harley Ultra backward into the campground’s red, packed-earth parking space, I snapped my kickstand down, settled the bike’s thousand pounds to the left, and killed the engine. After four hundred miles in the saddle . . .
Dismounting, I spun around in awe. The open campsite with its covered, shade-producing pavilion was surrounded by stunted yet rich-green juniper and mesquite; nestled between towering red, tan, and gray tiered canyon walls.
Palo Duro Canyon.
And I had the place to myself.
Over the next hour, I shifted to shorts and a lightweight sleeveless shirt, popped a cold one, and set up camp. Then I sat down to record the day’s events in my journal and review this afternoon’s field-test recipe from The Biker Gourmet’s Seafood in a Saddlebag Cookbook. Following The Biker Gourmet’s Chuck Wagon in a Saddlebag Cookbook, Seafood in a Saddlebag was the second in my series of travel cookbooks whose premise is it’s not only possible but easy to enjoy gourmet dining with what can be brought to camp in one’s saddlebags.
All was at peace in the desert-like calm.
Deep within the bowels of Palo Duro Canyon, where the sun never shines and the air is dank and putrid, lived a clan of horseflies. In appearance, they looked like normal horseflies: prominent compound eyes, short antennae, and wide bodies; the females recognizable by their bayonet-like stabbing devices—some with sawing edges used to enlarge wounds—and a sponge-like part used to lap up blood. Like other horseflies, these were active during the day and dormant at night.
Unlike other horseflies, this clan craved feeding on their own . . . and when feasting, went berserk. Trees had been stripped of bark. Armadillo and tortoise shells offered no protection to their inhabitants. And when it came to soft, succulent skin—human skin . . .
One of the clan’s many scouts flew into the place where food could often be found, a place where big, two-legged creatures often assembled. A glint of shiny white drew its attention. Approaching, the stench was unmistakable. Dead flies!
The scout dashed off to tell the clan.
I was blissfully unaware anything was out of the ordinary until “ouch!”
I jumped to my feet, twirling around like a dervish, slapping at myself. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!”
Scrambling around didn’t deter them. Neither did bug spray. They even bit me through my socks. “OUCH!”
Escape into my sun-scorched tent was out of the question. I shifted back into jeans—less area to defend—and raced off. Away from the campground, I stopped where a small creek intersected the park road. A channel ran under the asphalt to handle routine water flow. I saw minnows swimming in the shallow stream.
I cautiously headed back toward camp.
With my bike parked facing out, I’d missed it fleeing. Returning, it was inescapable. My fairing, windshield, and headlights were covered with feeding flies. They were eating their own bloody, mashed dead.
I mounted up, started the engine, and rode to the camp’s single water spigot. Waving one arm around my head, I pulled a rag out of my left fairing lower, wet it, and started wiping. Five minutes later, the goo was gone.
So were the berserker cannibal horseflies of Palo Duro Canyon.
Back at camp, with calm restored, it was time to prepare dinner—Shrimp Anise served over a bed of basmati rice. Within minutes the sizzle of green onions sautéing in butter complemented the hush of a light breeze passing through nearby scrub, and a hint of licorice mingled with the scent of dry grass.
Gourmet dining, indeed.
Dinner was fly-free. Apparently, Biker Gourmet fare couldn’t compete with bug guts. Either that or they were just recovering after their gluttonous frenzy . . . preparing for round two.
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