How to Repel Flies (Maybe)

Mother and I were cruising around Jackson scoping out yard sales and looking for something for me to shoot. Out on 34 west of town, we saw a sign on a small BBQ stand that said Fresh Strawberry Pie. We pulled in to sample it  The joint doesn’t have a name out front, but Google Maps show it as Cook’s Bar-B-Q & Catering at 1931 West Jackson Blvd.

Right next to the order window was a note that said not to compare them with the guys at the north end of town. That would be Wib’s, a Steinhoff favorite for five generations. They implied that Cook’s actually puts meat on their sandwiches and that they are cheaper. Well, a challenge like that has to be checked out.

On the plus side, the sandwiches DID have a fair amount of meat on them and they were cheaper than Wib’s. On the con side, at least for me, the pork was shredded, not sliced, and it was “wet.” It had more the taste and feel of a Sloppy Joe than what I would call a good barbecue sandwich. The sauce was nowhere as good as Wib’s and the meat wasn’t as tasty as Hamburger Express in Cape. Barbecue is a highly personal choice, so some folks may prefer it.

The strawberry pie, on the other hand was excellent. Good crust and made with fresh strawberries.

Why are those bags of water hanging there?

But, that’s not the reason I’m writing this. When we looked up, we saw a Ziploc plastic bag, obviously freshly filled with water hanging over our heads. Inside the bag were several pennies. The bags were tacked to the overhang with heavy upholstery tacks. When our server slid open the screen-covered window to hand us our order, I said, “I bet I’m not the first person to ask this, but what’s with the plastic bags of water?”

Not wanting to engage in a lengthy conversation, she said, “It’s for the flies,” closing the window before I could observe, “Must be working, then. ‘Cause there’s plenty of them.”

While we were sitting at the outdoor table eating our pie and shooing off the occasional fly, a fellow walked by who elaborated on the bags. “They’re supposed to keep the flies away. It’s got something to do with the way the fly’s eyes work.”

When I mentioned that there still seemed to be a lot of the winged creatures flying around, he said that he had just put the bags up. The one over our heads was the first one to go up, he explained, and he said he could already see an improvement on our end of the seating area. I was going to take his word for it.

Mother was intrigued by the idea

Mother kept coming up with all of the places she could put up the bags and wondering if shiny pennies would work better than run-of-the-mill pocket pennies. Should you put them over the door to keep the flies out or do you put them on the inside to run them away? If you did both, would the ones entering and the ones exiting have head-on collisions, killing them all? Weighing all of the possibilities kept her occupied the rest of the afternoon.

I did a quick Google search and found that one of my favorite debunking sites, Snopes, had addressed this issue and found it —WHAT?!?!?—“Undetermined. ” You’ll have to read their conclusions for yourself. It’ll be good practice for you to know how to find them to check out your own hoax questions.

I should have shot them the first time

Anyway, after kicking myself for not taking a picture of the magic bags, Mother and I saddled up the pony and drove back over to Jackson. After standing around for several minutes waiting for someone to open the magic screened serving window so I could tell them what I was doing, I got tired of waiting, shot my photos and left. I didn’t REALLY need another piece of that strawberry pie. I DID ask another customer if she had heard of the concept and she said, “My mother has them hanging in her garage.”

We ended up at Mario’s Pasta House where our lasagna was good as always, served promptly by friendly and attentive wait staff. (I started to type “weight staff,” thinking, obviously, of the size of the portions.)

22 Replies to “How to Repel Flies (Maybe)”

  1. Well, I’m so glad I got up at 3 a.m. to check your blog site, Ken! This is a home remedy I’ve never heard of before. I can hardly wait until daylight, so I can get out on the front porch with my bag of watered pennies!
    One of your readers absolutely hit the nail on the head yesterday, when he/she said, “Don’t you know we hang on your every word, Ken?” If I can sit here at my computer at 3:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning, reading your stuff, I think I can consider myself hooked!

    1. It’s nice to know that I have the insomniac vote. I’m happy to see that you were able to complete your sentence.

      If you had trailed off, I would have been afraid I had put you to sleep.

      I had an Econ prof at SEMO who started his first lecture by warning that he would flunk anyone he caught sleeping in his class. It dawned on me that no GOOD teacher had ever had to deliver that warning. By the end of the first class, I could see why he had to do it.

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only person who ends up kicking himself for a photo not taken. I’ll bet I do it a lot more than you do, though.

    I suppose one advantage of the bags over flypaper is no gross-looking dead flies to look at. Live ones look nicer.

    1. Some of my best pictures were taken in Ohio where I did five photo essays a week. With a monkey like that on your back, no opportunity went undocumented.

      Now that I’m back in Cape for a few days, I have to get back into that mindset.

      If you glance at something twice, it’s probably worth a shutter click. I’d rather look through the photos and ask, “What in the world was I looking at?” rather than get miles down the road and wish I had taken the photo.

  3. Hey, I thought I gave you the weekend off…(no pay of course). No flies on me today…I am lying of course.
    Now back to the bags and pennies??? So how DOES it work or not work?
    What a cliff hanger on a holdiday weekend!

  4. I have seen these in use at a place here in Charlotte. Not sure how effective they have been, but they keep them hanging around their outdoor eating area. No pennies tho in their bags.

  5. To try or not to try, that is the question. We have a problem with flies around our “booth” at the weekly Farmer’s Market when the breeze dies down. I’m trying to figure out how to attach the bags to our flimsy canopy. If I try it, I’ll let you know if it worked or not.

    1. Snopes didn’t completely debunk it, but I’m of the belief that you could do better with a brick in each hand and a fly in the middle.

      Actually, a pair of water-filled plastic bags with a fly in the middle might be a better solution. You’re less likely to squish your finger than with the brick method.

  6. I actually tried this last year at our cabin in Kentucky. It did not work on Kentucky flies, maybe it will work on Missouri ones!

  7. The story I heard was water in a zip lock bag with dish detergent, Joy, whatever. We did try it one year, but unfortunately, the flies were onto the trick, and they didn’t seem to mind it at all.

  8. The first time I saw this was in Fairhope, AL. I don’t know if it works or not but I couldn’t enjoy my meal for fear the bag was going to break over my head.

  9. Ken,
    My husband and I first encountered pennies in plastic bags at an ice cream stand on the island of Ocracoke, North Carolina. The bags must be in sunlight for
    them to repel flies. We tried it on our motor yacht, and it seemed to help. This morning I saw the flag on Anna as we were driving to New Lorimier Cemetary to check the Bahn and Reece headstones. Next door to those graves is a Steinhoff headstone. Often I learn as much from your postings as I do when I read the local newspaper. We bought a house in Cape in March for our retirement. It’s great to be home after being away for 43 years. My biggest surprise is that the Mobile station has a drive through window for the US Postal Service. A woman drove through and bought one stamp. Among your photos my favorite one is of Wimpy’s at night.
    Thanks for all the hours you put into this! Lynette Williamson, ’64

    1. Those folks are neighbors of my Dad in New Lorimier Cemetery. Mother and I drove through there a couple of days ago and we mentioned the Bahn stone.

      Thanks for the compliment. A lot of what you’re getting is recycled from what I wrote in The Missourian in the 60s, so it’s old news in a new package.

      The main difference is that I’m not getting paid $50 a week and $5 a picture.

  10. I think maybe you had one of Cook’s original sandwiches, served on a bun. They’ve had those for nearly 20 years.
    I eat the toasted sandwiches a couple times each week. You can order them dry if you want. I’ve never had the sloppy joe experience with the toasted sandwiches you claim.
    You sound like someone just wanting to stir the pot with 2 Jackson businesses.
    Also you lost all of your credibility with me when I saw that you love Mario’s bland lasagna. Have you ever actually eaten at a real Italian restaurant?

    1. Larry, I didn’t have much credibility to begin with. I never claimed to be a food critic. Lord knows, my riding buddy, the former food editor of The Palm Beach Post will attest to that.

      I DO call ’em as I see ’em, and the sandwich I was served at Cook’s was closer to a sloppy Joe than the BBQ sandwich I prefer. It wasn’t a “claim,” as you put it; it was an observation. Maybe the normal cook wasn’t making the sandwiches the day I was there.

      As far as wanting to stir the pot, Cook’s is the one who with the note next to the order window that said not to compare them with the guys at the north end of town. I did and found them lacking in the ways I described. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

      Ditto with Mario’s. I like their food, their prices, their friendly wait staff and their quantities. If I go in and find they’ve changed, then I’ll report that, too.

      Where is that “real Italian restaurant” that I should try?

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