THE BIG SWAMP BEETLE SCAM
By Norris Chambers
Eerybody knew old Bob Crandle was the luckiest man in the county. He never lost a bet. His favorite game was called a “bug run” and it was pretty simple. He drew a circle on the ground and marked a cross from one side to the other, making four compartments. He would put some money in one section and invite three others to pick a section. Then a bug would be turned loose in the center. He furnished the bug and brought it in a dark colored bottle so no one could see the bug and know if it were to be released in a certain position. Old Bob invited any one around to release the bug so that he wouldn’t be blamed for cheating. That sounded fair enough. The section of the circle the bug traveled through to exit was the winner and that man claimed the money that had been laid down by the other three.
So the bug was released by an impartial onlooker. It turned around three or four times and traveled through Old Bob’s area, quickly leaving the circle behind it. Of course Bob gathered up the winnings. The bug was pretty fast and it usually escaped an angry foot and disappeared in the grass.
This betting thing won for Bob every time the game was played. Bob always furnished the bug. None of the Holler folks ever figured out why the bug always went out on Bob’s part of the circle.
One of my older cousins told me about our Grandpa passing the secret on to him. Gramdpa had spent a few years living with the Indians in his youth and he learned about the bug’s strange abilities from them. The Indians used the swamp beetle as a sort of compass to help them know where they were and which way to go. The Swamp Beetle had a natural ability to return to its location when removed. It had some strange power for direction. It would move for about four or five inches toward the north and then circle a time or two and head straight for the area where it had been captured. Old Bob always picked up the bug and carried it directly to the game area. Since he knew the direction to the place where he got the bug he drew the circle and made sure that one of the segments was on the side toward the bug’s home. He knew that this would be the winning area when the bug circled and started home.
But all good things come to an end. A smart school teacher by the name of Browning played the game a time or two, losing each time. He became curious about the bug and did some serious research. It seems that the swamp beetle has some strange sense that enables it to face north, and then another unexplained ability that tells it which way to head toward its home. The bug reacts to the earth’s magnetic force enabling it to act as a compass and face north. Mr. Browning didn’t have to know any more. He challenged Bob to another game.
Several community gamblers came for the event and prepared to bet a little. The next day the group assembled in a different place. Bob drew a crude circle on the ground and released his bug. Mr. Browning stood at the edge of the circle and reached his arms over the bug while he repeated: “You don’t know where you are, you stupid bug.” The bug was confused and made a hasty exit, heading in the wrong direction.
Want to know the secret? The professor had two magnets taped to his arms and covered by his sleeves, cleverly shielding them from sight. The two magnets were strong enough to override the magnetic field.
The beetle depended on the earth’s magnetic field for its amazing ability to act as a compass and to find its way home. In this encounter the magnets disrupted its sensitive ability to orient itself by the earth’s field.
The moral of this story is obvious – don’t bet on another man’s tricks unless you can out-trick him. Even if it is FUN!