You may have heard the one about the detective who, on being interviewed by a friend, was asked why he stayed in a tent. He responded that he was under cover. When I think of a tent, I usually think of a Scout troop or an army platoon pitching their tents under the wild blue yonder. I think of the tinkers, the Irish traveling folk, who pitched their tents on the side of the road and made tin cans for the local people. I think also of the Apostles, Peter, James and John, on the mountain of Jesus’ Transfiguration. As the Gospel tells us, Peter wanted to pitch three tents on that mountain, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

I haven’t had much personal experience with tents in my life other than the carnival tent for dancing during my teen-age years. This week changed my perspective on tarps and tents. It is tenting week and the Mid Pacific Pest Control Company from nearby Maui has been fumigating many of the buildings in Kalaupapa, including St. Francis Church, Damien Hall and the parish rectory. I admired the efforts of these young men as they tented the church while battling strong winds.

This meant that I had to leave my house for two days and two nights, taking with me Bailey and Titus, two of my three “mouseketeers.” Mr. Grey absolutely refused to leave the property, which of course is his civil right. So, we pitched our tent up the hill in the ritzy part of town, in the house used by visiting doctor, Kalani Brady. My two companions were not exactly thrilled but they endured their confinement. So far, the administration building, the Visitor’s Quarters, the Post Mistress’s house and another cottage have been fumigated. Today Meli’s house will be treated and tomorrow the grocery store will be tented and fumigated.

Yesterday afternoon my two feline companions and I were delighted to return to our base. We were greeted by a happy Mr. Grey. He had not been happy that his shelter had been tented, leaving him without a home. Later I spent some time collecting the remains of cockroaches, ants and geckos who had made the ultimate sacrifice before entering insect heaven. There was no sign of the offending termites. As I pen this, Bailey and Titus are sleeping here in the living room, while Mr. Grey is probably cooling in the tall grass in the back yard. This reminds me that it is past my time for my afternoon siesta


Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.