Further investigation revealed that we were, in fact, dealing with yellow jackets rather than just any old type of wasp. As I told J earlier this evening, I can think of nothing guaranteed to freak both her and me out than yellow jackets. Anyone who has grown up in the country knows that nature's little friends aren't always so friendly.
We grew up in a 2-story, 100+ year old farmhouse that our great-grandfather had expanded to its final size. My bedroom was next to the attic (or, as our mother called it, the "box room"). There were yellow jackets living in the attic, and at night they would crawl out through the mortise lock in the door and fly around or gather on the floor to sting through my toes the next morning. To this day I wear shoes or slippers around the house and seldom go barefoot indoors. I never go without shoes outside.
My sister was bothered by bumblebees and other stinging insects; one stung into her ankle and Daddy had to use pliers to pull it off of her. She'd had unsettled thoughts since we talked about it and I told her about the infestation; I'd had recurrences of my childhood nightmares that involves armies of yellow jackets streaming through the walls of my bedroom.
This afternoon I tried calling one of the big national firms with local offices; I was put on hold immediately. While I sat waiting for someone to return to the phone, I kept looking in the phone book and finally decided to hang up and call someone truly local. So the call went to a small firm whose home offices are in the tiny town up the road from us. First, I left a message. Someone called me back within 10 minutes, saying that they couldn't get to us until tomorrow afternoon, to which I agreed; a few minutes later, the friendly voice on the other end called back saying "one of our guys is coming back from a job right now and he'd be glad to stop by your house tonight." So I said "yes" of course, and shortly thereafter Dan arrived with his full beekeeping kit and protective clothing. He was here for over an hour and cleaned up after himself beautifully; he admired Mr. Duke (always a good policy), and turned out to be a near neighbor of ours. So, the buzz is - always use the local guys! We'll certainly use them again.