Thursday, November 16, 2006


My list yesterday contained this item:

6. Held a tarantula (how about torching one with a roman candle? I was a wild child)

In an email exchange with Jimmy, the Head Haberdasher over at Sticky Doorknobs, I tried to explain the history of this revelation.

The year was probably 1965 or '66. It was a hot summer night on the 4th of July. Our family had driven to Robert Lee, Texas to visit our "country cousins". (Here is a story I wrote last year upon the death of this beloved uncle.)

My younger brother and my cousin, Randy, were enraptured with fireworks, especially Black Cat firecrackers which they used like mini grenades upon unsuspecting victims. Oh such fun to toss one close to my feet and watch me run and scream like the famed headless chicken. The boys were and remain "Turdheads" ere these long forty years passed.

To celebrate Independence Day in style, my dad had just about bought out the local fireworks stand and we had more gunpowder than Texicans at the Alamo. My phobia of fireworks only allowed me to partake of sparklers and very gingerly held roman candles. (Anyone care to enlighten me with the history of their name? ) Always fearful that one of those balls of colored fire would blast into reverse and singe my long blonde hair to a memory.

West Texas has its share of interesting critters, but some are just plain ol' scary. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, lizards and this charming arachnid, the Aphonopelma hentz, better known as a Texas Brown Tarantula:

In the late summer and early fall, in the cool of the evening you can often see male tarantulas crossing the road in larges groups, desperately seeking Susie Tarantula. A rather unsettling sight, and not an experience you forget easily.

Whether the particular arachnid in question was running late for a hot date on this particular 4th of July, we'll never know - he met a rather untimely demise courtesy of my roman candle-turned-flame-thrower.

I was already jumpy, darkness was just turning the eastern sky an inky blue and to lessen the taunts and teasing, I had decided to participate with at least one roman candle. The first red fireball came whumping out of that flimsy cardboard tube, lighting up an area around me about three feet. Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement; a Texas Brown tarantula came scuttling out of the roadside Johnson grass and was headed straight toward my sandal-shod feet.

I gave no second thought to my plan of defense; that roman candle would be put to good use! Violating every warning on the wrappers of roman candles, I tilted it down towards the advancing hairy demon faster than a Jedi warrior can wield a Light Saver.

Puh, puh, puh, POW! A giant blue blaze engulfed the spider who was already most likely running in fear from all the ricocheting noise of the fireworks. Like a flaming Jason Voorhees, the poor thing blindly continued to crawl. If you think a plain tarantula is intimidating, try watching a fiery one crab-walk its way towards you. Ugh.

My begging the boys to stomp it fell on deaf ears - this was perfect fodder for their amusement and they added their own candle bombing to the poor thing. Finally, my cousin finished the tarantula with a well placed Converse tennis shoe.

And that was the end of my roman candle days. Those were the days, my friend.


Anonymous said...

Woah, CP! What a quick draw. Are you equally speedy with the six-shooters? And do you blow the smoke from the barrels after dispatching justice to six, four, or two legged miscreants?

Cowtown Pattie said...

That was my first and last time to use a roman candle as a weapon of singular destruction.

I often blow smoke, in various forms and commodities *grin*, but this tale is true!

Jimmy P said...

I remain in awe of your pyrotechnic elimination of said arachnid.

When the darn thing came up on my screen I pulled out a Tazer gun.

One of the funniest sites in all of life is seeing a tarantula in the road and rolling over it (not hurting it, just passing over it) with the car and then looking in your rear view mirror to see it tumbling end over end as the wind catches it.

But then, I'm easily entertained. Gotta run. It's Friday night and there's some paint that's drying that I gotta go watch.

SpookyRach said...

Love this story!! Those are some freaky little creatures. They'll make you lose your religion in a hurry, won't they?

Gwynne said...

I think the holding of the Roman candles (should that not be capitalized? what is the origin of the name of this pyrotechnic anyway?) is way scarier than the holding of a tarantula. But I think Darko must have been referring to your quick witted story telling abilities as well as your dispatching skilz. ;-)

Anonymous said...

You missed your calling as a pest-control technician. You'd entertain the kiddos at the same time.

- Texas T-bone

Jimmy said...

Watch out, Gwynne's got her dictionary and blue pen again. :)

Hokule'a said...

My mother told me horro stories of life in Cuba where she was a missionary in the mid 50's. They would burn the Cane fields and the Tarantulas would run from the fire and into your house.... some as large as a dinner plate. Her friend from college staying for the summer threw a waffle iron at one hit it and the thing was still moving. Photos of dead ones curled up next to a ruler were 10-12
inches... UGHHHH!

by the way they had scorpions like this too. That is suffering for God truly

Anonymous said...

Poor furry Arachne... where do you girls keep your hearts? ;-)

Actually I read this last night and went to bed freaking out. Explaining to Dear Old Dad what was making me giggle and cringe prevented me commenting. There's nothing like saying, well, when Pattie was a girl she fried a tarantula with a Roman candle to an incredulous 80 year old who calls the internet a 'magic lantern' to put one off making a reasonable comment. There again, my best might have been... eeeewwwwwwwwwww....

Anonymous said...

Now I don't mean to split hairs, but my understanding of phobia is 'irrational fear.' In view of your life experiences, I'd say you were completely rational to be fearful of such things.