Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sitting on Centipides

I don't know why I love to dig. I always have, from my earliest memories.

As a tiny child in our first house in California - I hear I was about a year and a half old when we moved away from it - I loved exploring the darkish places in the crawlspace under the house. kdad taught us to be careful in a certain area, and to learn to identify her, because a pet black widow had set up house there. She was beautiful, she fascinated me, and I've loved black widows ever since.

kdad had an indoor pet black widow as a boy, himself. This one spun her cobby web between his bed frame and the wall. According to him it was very useful for keeping his mom out of his room.

I love critters. I respect them, but there are very few you could say I'm afraid of. Fear is something inspired in me by human animals, rather than non-human ones.

Some critters have bad tempers. They'll almost never attack a human unprovoked; but it's certainly been done. Even here in Florida. The point is to learn how to behave correctly around wild animals, not startle or provoke them. Or hang around too close during feeding time.

But my biggest cautions are things like where I put my hands and my butt. The bad-tempered critters define *provoke* a little more broadly than I would. The more easygoing ones will still defend themselves in the face of threat. If I sit on a critter, or accidentally grab it while pulling up a weed, it seems perfectly reasonable for them to perceive a *threat,* and react accordingly.

Centipedes, now, they're world famous for being bad-tempered. They'll perceive a threat readily, rapidly, even when said threat seems a little irrational to us. like...*who you lookin' at? Huh? You lookin' at ME?* and POW! they're whipping their heads around fast as lightning, trying to find a place to land their venomous bite. Which frequently ulcerates and burns and itches for months.

They have a funny act they perform with their tails, too, the centipede species we have down here. The tail end has two long prongs that look like jaws, and can close on you like jaws, too. No venom though. It's just pretense. They can walk backward fast, and do so at the drop of a hat. Highly entertaining to watch - but also smart. It can be very hard to tell which is the business end with a centipede.

I wear latex gloves while gardening. That's what you see in the pix. Sometimes I double-glove them. They aren't the kind of protection leather gloves are, but they're much better at keeping dirt and allergenic plant sap off my hands.

OTOH...Things can bite right through them.

And right through the Blue Boxers.

And even right through the icky Safety Sweats I'm wearing now, like I promised, to keep the little cuts and bruises down to a minimum.

This is why I try to remember: Look Before You Sit.

Of course, then I get all absorbed in my work, and finding neat stuff and playing with it and giggling, or singing little songs to the lizards...

beans beans beans beans
beans beans beans beans
beans beans the musical fruit...

and as I finish one area and butt-walk my way to the next spot over, I forget to look.

I try to maintain my dignity by only scratching the centipede bites on my butt when Walter's not looking.


pepektheassassin said...

k, I love you!

k said...

Miss Assassin, I love you too!

Granny J said...

My black widow lady, unfortunately, sets up housekeeping in and among my potted plant garden, so I have to prune her extended webbing periodically. I surely appreciate your attitude toward critters.

Kirsten N. Namskau said...

I don't have any garden. I wish I had...A big one, so I could cultivate my own vegetables.

Desert Cat said...

I wish I could be so phlegmatic about black widows. They're one of the *very* few crawly things that freak me right out.

Cindi said...

I had no idea that centipedes bite! I learn something new every day.

Glad to hear you were safe from the tornadoes!

k said...

granny j, you're blessed! I bet she keeps a sharp eye out for plant-eating bugs. And it sure looks like we have similar attitudes to critters, huh? I still haven't found any widows on my own property. I keep waiting and hoping...

kirsten, of the many reasons people want to buy a house, and work so hard to achieve that first one, being able to grow my own vegetables was way high on my list. Then I found out that many residents before me had used the ground for dumping their leftover contractor waste and used motor oil. Huge amounts of this stuff. Utter despair. I'm almost done cleaning out the dirt in the back yard, and the front yard is as good as I can get it. But because of all that slow and laborious work, after 10 years here, I'm just getting ready to do any serious vegetable gardening.

And considering the lack of flavor and freshness in our grocery store produce here, it's way long overdue.

DC, spiders are one of those things!...Espcially black widows.

Cindi, we got lucky, tornado-wise. But actually, South Florida rarely gets any strong enough to do real damage. Ours tend to be beautiful (but weak) water spouts than come ashore for a few minutes, and make for great footage, but don't actually hurt people. Central and North Fl. can get the killers.

And I'm so very glad to see you get the difference between *bite* and *sting!* Knowing the Business End is one of my *pet* rants.

There is actually a centipide in Vietnam whose venom is lethal, a big six-incher I hear. It used to crawl into soldiers' sleeping bags, and then bite and kill them when they bedded down for the night.

Jean said...

Who needs school? We can learn so much here! Good stuff, as usual, k.