The Texas Hill Country is not a place for arachnophobes. In late Spring and early Summer the daddy long legs build thick nests by wrapping themselves around each other on the underside of the roof or straight on the wall; you hope to defeat the scorpions by being lucky enough to stomp on them before they sting you first.
The other day I opened up the dryer to find a 2″ scorpion on its hind legs ready to defend against tumbler intruders. Scorpions must have a thing for laundry. The local dry cleaner has a sign posted: Please check your laundry before dropping it off. Our employees have been stung from scorpions left in clothes.
There are nice insects though. Walking sticks abound, the one on my back porch this morning measures over 9″. That’s good wood! And actually, the daddy long legs are quite humorous, bouncing up and down when agitated or threatened. To see them bouncing in a group when I poke them with a broom, I imagine they think they are warning: Do ya see me bouncing? Do you? I can bounce faster, so watch out, WATCH OUT, I’m bouncing!!!!
All of my annoyances (where scorpions are concerned, make that FEAR), are little though, in comparison to what women experienced here years before me. It’s amazing to think about how things like insect infestations are inconveniences today that can be rid of by a phone call to Oak Hills Pest Control. The room’s a little hot….call the A/C guy to check the unit. Water’s hard, add salt to the water softener.
Even out here, miles outside of the San Antonio city limits, I get my paper delivered in the morning. Cell phone service is a bit sketchy, but there’s always the land line. Compared to what life was like for women who blazed the trail with their husbands years ago — OMG, I have it easy. We all have it pretty good you know.
I read this article aloud to my guy over morning coffee, by the end of it I felt the need to apologize for all of my past complaints. Elizabeth Bacon Custer accompanied her husband, the General, through Texas after the Civil War. Writes Martha Deeringer:
A military ambulance with leather-backed seats that could be flattened to form a bed was repurposed as a traveling wagon for Libbie, but during the day she rode her horse beside the general at the head of the procession. Eliza, Gen. Custer’s African-American servant, was the only other woman who accompanied the troops. Libbie slept in the ambulance at night, out of reach of poisonous insects, venomous snakes and stinging plants. She feared holding up the division’s departure each morning because of the many tiny buttons on her dresses and the difficulty of finding her hairpins in the dark. “Our looks did not enter into the question very much,” she wrote. “All we thought of was, how to keep from being prostrated by the heat, and how to get rested after the march, for the next day’s task.”
Libbie and many of the troops suffered the torments of “break-bone fever,” a mosquito-borne disease known today as dengue fever, which caused agonizing muscle and joint pain. Water was scarce, and the scorching sun beat down relentlessly, but Libbie’s positive outlook and joy at being allowed to accompany her husband raised the spirits of all. “The General had reveille sounded at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Libbie wrote. “It was absolutely necessary to move before dawn, as the moment the sun came in sight the heat was suffocating.”
Most of our own struggles seem smaller in comparison…but human beings have shown amazing resiliency and ingenuity to deal with them. Hopefully we will keep designing new ways to live compatibly with nature — and with each other– …. though so many seemingly want to convince us that going backwards is going forward.
Every generation should look forward to building on the knowledge and wisdom of previous ones. Imagine, once, over a smoking pit, a caveman said, wistfully, to his more youthful neighbor:
Little Frank got picked up from a pterodactyl, never saw him again. And lightning hit the tree old Shirley was sleeping under one night and that was that. But we managed…..today there’s only 1/2 the dinosaurs there used to be…and have you heard about that new wheel? Pretty amazing.
The one thing I’ve yet to see after living here a couple months is a snake, which I think is kinda weird. I would have expected to see one smooshed on the road, or hidden in the rocks at the back of the house. So far, so good…. knock on wood.
Yep, just checked. Mr. Walking Stick hasn’t moved a limb.