Mystery on the Side of the Shed

December 2010. This is a story that is going to be told to the grandkids around a campfire. Can you explain how this object found its way to the side of the shed?

It was a fine December day to do gardening and I was out behind the shed spreading mulch across the bed of sweet potatoes and pulling the occasional weed when I turned around, looked up, and noticed an Unidentifed Object Attached to the Shed Wall (U.O.A.S.W.). At first, I didn’t think much of it…In this climate, I am used to seeing cocoons and bagworms by the hundreds attached to a variety of surfaces left outdoors for more than a week and the shed wall would have certainly been no exception.

The bagworms, for those not acquainted with them, are ubiquitous curiosities in themselves, looking like bumpy brown spikes jutting unexpectedly from any number and types of surfaces. Unexpected surfaces like windows. In fact, it would be hard to find a window on my house without at least several. This unnerving fact makes one wonder if they are more intelligent than we humans would suppose; could they be conducting some occult observations of our species, 
passing nuggets of information amongst themselves in muted whispers? Spying into our windows and clinging to unassuming objects like secret listening devices from the Cold War Era?

Even with possible sinister intentions, the bagworms are remarkable in their complete naivete. What information they may have gathered about our species- our culture- seems to not have influenced them in the least. Take, for instance, where they attach themselves. For a week, one dangled precariously on the upper moulding of the front door frame, like some seasonally-confused mistletoe. I have to regularly pluck them off of the strangely durable plastic Neoclassical Revival-esque statuette in the prairie, which has at least a dozen attached to the playful children’s arms and cherub-like facial countenances. Even the Virgin Mary statue poised stoicly in front of the neighbor’s house has clusters of them on the neck and cheeks (and other more inappropriate places), like terribly obtrusive skin tags that one is frighened to call attention to but knows that they must be dealt with at the appropriate opportunity: under the obscuring cloak of night.

I drew closer to the U.O.A.S.W. I cautiously studied it. It was brownish, and much too large to be a bagworm. Except if it was a mutant bagworm. Or a bagworm on steroids, perhaps? Or the central-information gathering and data storage bagworm?? My mind whirled at the possibilities. What??? I recognized it, but only after some time did I accept it for what it was. It was a peanut, stuck to the shed wall a little more than 6 feet above the ground and only 18 inches below the roof overhang. I did the only thing I could think of at a time like this. I called my niece.


Left: the U.O.A.S.W

Right: the peanut on the
shed wall with, ironically,
a bagworm attached to its upper left side


peanut on shed wall

She drove over immediately. Yes, these things interest our family that way. “How is it stuck there?” she asked as we got out the stepladder and proceeded with the more earnest inspection. We could not find anything to give us a clue. Magnetism, perhaps? Although that option seemed to fly in the face of all known physics, the probability of one finding a peanut stuck to the wall of a shed seemed to call for a more open mind. “Maybe a bird stuck it there”, she said as she peered at it from every convenient angle and safe distance. My mind briefly flashed to Audubon’s Guide to the Birds of North America; would it contain a description on which birds use their saliva as a glue? Even still, no bird could fly up under the eve like that. No sensible bird anyway. “Did something crawl up the shed wall with the peanut, then stick it there?” How could anything grip that smooth wall anyway? Speculations flew wantonly but none seem to stick as tight as that peanut.

As weeks went by, I showed the peanut on the shed wall to family and neighbors; some were clearly perplexed and others could not understand why I even cared about the misplaced cocktail party staple. Some were quietly wondering why I just didn’t knock the thing off and move on. Inside, I began to wish that it would have been just a mis-shapen bagworm afterall- that would have been easier to explain.

The peanut fell off one day, but it didn’t grow. Another clue? I examined the place where it once clung and found no apparent scarring or discoloration left behind. It was although it had never been. The peanut is now long gone but the questions remain. If you think you can explain this mystery, please write to me.

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