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Monday, January 24, 2011

All creatures great, small and creepy

I live in Texas.  I have to get used to a variety of new things, including living organisms with more than four legs, or no legs at all.  My attitude towards arachnids had been reasonable, at best, but I am not sure that I ever encountered any that were venomous in the depths of Watford.  The odd spider in the bath was usually picked up in a tissue and placed outside, being told not to come back.  Apparently, they understand, or was that just something I heard in a comedy programme.  Who am I to argue!

My first encounter was an 'almost' encounter.  I was quite happily reading on my floaty in the swimming pool, when Samantha urgently called me to the side.  Her and Dana had previously been scheming about something, and would not let me in on the secret, answering, 'nothing', when I enquired as to the nature of their discussions.  I climbed out of the pool, and was directed to look at a patch of grass.  'Look, there', she said.  I couldn't see a thing. 'What, where', I asked.  I stood and stared, not seeing anything.  Her finger pointed again, 'THERE!' she repeated, looking over my shoulder into the pool whilst pointing to the patch of grass that seemed to contain nothing but grass.  I turned, in time to see Dana throw a twig into the bushes on the opposite side of the pool.  Slightly confused, as to why my husband was practising for a caber tossing competition, I returned my gaze to the lawn area.  'WHERE?' I demanded.  Samantha was now lounging in the long chair, eyes closed behind sunglasses, soaking up the sun.  'Oh, it was nothing', she yawned.  I turned to see Dana had taken up the same position on another lounger.  'Okay, what was it?' I sighed.  No one answered.  'I shall go and find it', I said making my way to the bushes.  Samantha admitted there had been a snake, albeit a dead snake, in the pool, and they had been devising a way not only to get me out of the pool, but to dispose of the offending deceased reptile before I noticed.  Since when did my daughter become my protector and how come she wasn't scared of snakes.  She's English! 

She has secured me from several snakes, none of which, fortunately, have, up to current time, been of the poisonous variety.  However, on leaving the pool area two years ago, I saw, coiled in the bushes, a possible future pair of shoes.  Bravely, I exited and walked very slowly down the steps before breaking into a sprint.  My first action upon entering the house was to open my laptop and search, 'Texas snakes'.  I had come face to face with a 'Diamond Back'.  Not venomous unless you are a rodent.  I managed to convince myself that, although I was born in the year of the rat, I was not Chinese, and I did not have a long tail.  I could return to the pool without fear of attack.  My diamond back slitherer was going to become my friend.  After all, I don't like mice, and rats are in my all time 'never invite, no matter what story they tell you', list.  I told the legless lizard, Your enemies are my enemies, and I am going to let YOU take the credit for their demise. 

And so, snakes and I came to an understanding.  They would curl up in the bushes, and I would fore go a handbag.  We could live in harmony.  Unless of course it is a rattler and then we would have to come up with a new set of rules.  You realise you are living in a different culture when the vet offers a vaccination against a rattlesnake bite.  Fortunately, snakes don't really like people, and prefer to live in their own environment, not in houses.  Of course, that does not stop me checking under the bed each time I see something glide across the path into the hedgerow.  Dana has assured me they do not come down the chimney.  That is Santa Clause!

Another newby for me is a Cockroach. Cockroaches are ugly.  They are also very fast.  Fortunately, the spray that is used (and I have no idea how environmentally friendly it is) keeps these nasty little creatures away from my house.  Unfortunately, it would appear that my house had 'I love all creepy crawlies' written on the roof this year, as every feasible insect has found its way into my living room.  'Shoe' is probably the word used most in our house, followed by 'quick'.  I have become an expert tap dancer, albeit that the shoes are on my hands.   

Some years ago, I heard a story of a lady who bought bananas that seemed to be buzzing.  The buzzing sound was in fact eggs.  When hatched, they would have produced the largest amount of potential killers since John Goodman had destroyed the nest in Aracnophobia.  In among the eggs was an adult, which, fortunately, was captured and its fate was never told.  True or not, I will take no chances.  Yes, I am the woman who listens to bananas.  Please feel free to say hello next time you see a grown female put a bunch of yellow fruit to her ear.  Rather paranoid than sorry, or should that be 'safe'.  I prefer paranoid.

Texas has two poisonous spiders, the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse.  Fortunately, I have not seen either one, but I would recognise one on sight.  This is because I regularly check their profile.  The internet is a wonderful tool.  Every spider I see gets 'checked out', and it would seem sensible to check on a regular basis, in case the species has a metamorphosis experience.  Am I paranoid?  Heck yeah! 

Walking the dog a couple of years ago, I saw a large insect, of some sort, run in front of us.  There had been a storm, and quite a lot of rain.  When we have rain, the insects are washed out of their homes and when the water dries, they make their way back.  The dog seemed rather interested in whatever was running uphill, to regain ownership of its rock.  As we approached the black blob, I realised this creature was one of the eight legged variety.  It was big.  I pulled the dog away and walked slowly, then quickened my pace, and then ran.  I went upstairs and called Dana, very calmly.  'Day-nuh', I called.  I then explained that I had just seen a very big arachnid.  Very big. Laughing at me was not a good idea.  Suggesting that I had been mistaken was an even bigger mistake.  'The only spider that big would be a tarantula.  We don't have tarantulas in Texas'.  Marching him down the stairs and along the back of the house, we were met by a neighbour.  Explaining that I had possibly seen a tarantula, I was waiting for my neighbour to be shocked.  Instead, he smiled and said, 'cool'.  Cool?  What is cool about seeing such a creature?  If I had a breathalyser in my possession at the time, I would have insisted he blow into it. 
Checking around the craggy area in behind the trees, Dana finally saw the furry black body with the excessive limbs.  'Oh look, isnt he beautiful.  I think it is a tarantula'.  Really!  Beautiful is not a word I would use, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Dana is a lifelong teetotaller, but I was beginning to wonder if his tea had been spiked.  Fascinated, Dana moved his finger around forcing the creature to move.  'What are you doing? It's a tarantula!', I said in a low level scream.  Dana continued to be fascinated.  'Do you want me to kill it?'  With Dana's back towards me, I nodded my head, agressively.  'Nooo', I said, wondering why the wrong word had come out.  Perhaps I needed the breathalyser.  

Once back in the house, I went straight to the internet.  I gained a stange sense of security when I realised that Texas has both black and brown tarantulas.  Indiginous to Texas meant that this 'beautiful' thing was in its home territory, and not an intruder.  I wasnt particularly interested that they make good pets, that they rarely bite, but if they do, it is little more than the equivalent of a bee sting.  Satisfied that our friend was back in his natural home, I checked under my bed, then every bed in the house.  Surprisingly enough, the encounter did not make it into my dreams. 

I live in Texas.  I have to get used to living with a variety of creatures with more legs than four, or none at all.  Don't even get me started on the coyotes.  That is....another story.

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