The New Business Plan: Cash ‘n’ Carrion

This past week there were a couple of stories on the Internet that you may have missed. Having one of those quirky minds that appreciate the mysterious, the irreverent, and the bizarre, I naturally sniffed out these two reports and found some great material for an article of my own.

“Sniffing” out these stories wasn’t as difficult as you might think for reasons that will become apparent soon enough. Meanwhile, if you’re just sitting down to eat you may want to defer my commentary for later reading. You have been warned.

Did You Get a Whiff of That?

The first story comes out of Waco, Texas, where some local business people have been experiencing a disturbing phenomenon in their fair city. It seems a rather foul odor has been emanating from the walls of their establishments. What is even more peculiar is that, in every instance, it’s the very same smell.

This led some to say they could smell a rat in all of this but, as they would soon learn, such was not the case. Conscientious merchants that they are, they went to work nosing out the problem.

Walled up in Waco

It didn’t take long to find the source of the fetid fumes. Dead crickets. Rotting cricket corpses! The town of Waco is experiencing a Cricket Carcass Crisis! Jumpin’ Jiminy!

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald (, these critters are piling up not just on the sidewalks but in entryways, ceiling domes, and, most inaccessibly, in the walls of downtown businesses.

Entomologist (bug guy) Fred Huffman says cricket problems are an annual event in Central Texas but the bumper crop of hoppers this year is the result of the mild, moist conditions of the previous winter.

Apparently these Gryllidae, a cold-blooded species, had a field day taking advantage of the weather, copulating and populating to their hearts’ content. The problem for humans comes when rain flushes the critters from the ground, sending them to seek better digs in the higher and drier parts of the big city.

Ordinarily, dead crickets, like the rest of us, dry up. Unlike the rest of us, however, they’re not given the dignity of a proper burial and, in the fullness of time, nature takes care of the rest (“dust to dust” and all that). Out of sight, out of mind, out of smelling range. Too much moisture, however, and dead bodies develop an extraordinarily pungent aroma as they rot, particularly if they’re caught in areas where water collects, such as wall cracks, air-conditioning systems, and the bottom of elevator shafts.

(Great! Now we not only have to worry about plunging to our deaths in free-falling elevators but landing in a pool of decaying cricket guts as well! Yecch!)

Crop Rotation

So, what does one do when bugged by a problem of reeking, rotting cricket carcasses?

The folks in Waco are combating the infestation as best they can, including using leaf blowers to remove the unwanted pests from exterior walls. As for the ones trapped inside the walls, air scrubbers (Is that possible?) and “interior ozone generation machines” (Huh?) are being used to help eliminate the smell.

Still, the stench of rotting corpses is no easy fix and may just have to run its course as the bodies become just so much additional, if malodorous, insulation. Otherwise, how long would it take to air out a place whose walls are wheezing wafts of insect detritus? Or does one just tear out the walls, shovel out the clutter, and have one giant cricket cremation ceremony?

Meanwhile, I’ve come up with an idea to capitalize on the cricket quandary. The Waco businessmen could process the little cadavers as natural flavor enhancers, with names like “Chirper Chips,” for instance, or “Hopper Helper,” or “Char-broiled Crick-ettes.” Capitalism at its most inventive. (Gotta move fast, though; “Locust Bean Gum” is already taken.) These products could then be marketed to the restaurant trade, including Kentucky’s, whence comes our second story.

Oh, Deer!

The Red Flower Chinese Restaurant in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has been the subject of some notoriety of late for possible health code violations. Seems the customers became alarmed when they noticed some employees wheeling a trash can through the restaurant toward the kitchen. Admittedly a loaded trash can going into a kitchen instead of out of it would be cause for concern for even the least discriminating diner, but the contents of this particular receptacle are what prompted the calls to the local health department.

According to witnesses the tail, foot, and leg of a dead deer – That’s right, folks. Road kill! – were protruding from the trash can and blood dripping therefrom was being hastily mopped up by one of the employees as the carcass was rolled by. Now, we’ve all heard of “Meals on Wheels” but you must admit this is a little over the top. And it was way too much for at least one customer who ended up going next door and tossing her fortune cookies. (Must have impressed the owner of that business.)

Grim Pickings

By the time the food cops arrived the deer was already being dressed by the kitchen staff. (How you can “dress” a deer by removing its coat – much less its innards – is an oxymoronic concept I have yet to figure out.) The owner of the Red Flower said he didn’t know it was illegal to pick up and serve road kill. Besides, it was for his family, not the restaurant patrons. (That little revelation should be a heads-up for any of his relatives.)

Meanwhile, the Red Flower Chinese Restaurant has been closed down temporarily. Authorities say it can reopen, however, once it undergoes a thorough washing, rinsing, and sanitizing process and passes a future health inspection. That may satisfy some people but I’d be skeptical if the local buzzard population started hovering around the Red Flower premises. Some food critics just can’t be trusted.