May 20, 2010

Scorpions - Friends of the West

by DiAnn Mills

            We writers of the 19th century love the era of our stories. We fantasize about wearing the clothes, being a crack shot, and living in a simpler time. However, we avoid range wars, typhoid epidemics, the inability to shower on a daily basis, and a host of other not-so-pleasant things.
            But the one danger of the era that still exists today is the scorpion. Lately I’ve heard more stories about those eight legged, claw-grasping arthropods. Did I say they were predatory and have a nasty sting?  
             Living in Texas means sharing the real estate with scorpions, particularly in those areas that we see in western movies. They are nocturnal and hide during the day. In researching scorpions, I learned they grab their prey with their pincers and secrete venom from a curved tale that paralyzes them. Males even use their venom to subdue a mate! A few scorpions are poisonous, but most are not. Reactions are intense pain, but frothing at the mouth, numbness, and respiratory problems an occur. Scorpion stings can be life threatening to those who have severe allergic reactions. The amount of venom that is released is in proportion to the size of the prey. Waste not; want not.
            I have a serious dilemma:
            I want to live in the country. I don’t care if I never hear another siren, car horn, squealing brakes, barking dogs, or fussing neighbors again. The idea of a peaceful country scene with the sound of singing birds, colorful wildflowers, prancing horses - oh the list goes on and on. I’m sure you get the picture But I don’t want an encounter with a scorpion.
            Here are two good visuals that confirm my hesitation of moving to a rural part of Texas.
            One woman woke up in the middle of the night with the strange sensation of something crawling on her face. She brushed that “something” aside, then got up to investigate. When she switched on the light, a scorpion crawled on her husband’s pillow a few inches from his head. The “dear” creature had fallen from an air conditioning vent.
            A friend of mine spent a lovely weekend in the hill country for a writer’s retreat. During the night she woke up for a bio-break. For some reason, she decided to snap on the light before taking care of business. There in the potty, clung a scorpion who refused to leave, even after repeated flushings.
            Neither of those scenarios fits my favorite western scene in which the cowboy dumps a scorpion out of his boot before slipping it on--then laughs about it.
            How does a mother send her children outside to play at dusk? How does a grandmother allow her precious grandbabies to play hide and seek under a star-laden sky? Obviously our women of the west had more guts than I do. I think I’d rather have a face-off with a snake.
            I’ve made a few observations about moving to the country. I need some kind of assurance that scorpions won’t invade my home or be waiting for me to step out of bed in the middle of the night. Maybe my adventure in the wilds needs to remain in books.

DiAnn Mills
A Woman Called Sage - Zondervan May 2010


Sworn to Protect - Tyndale April 2010


EJ said...

DiAnn - reading your blog brot back some memories of AZ - I'm an AZ native and lived there all my life until 2 1/2 yrs. ago when we moved to Iowa. In AZ we always lived in the city until our last 3 yrs. & rarely encountered scorpions until we decided to move outside the city limits on a few acres. We had travertine tile throughout the house - the scorpions blended in perfectly. We had 2 cats which helped w/the scorpion population, plus before bed my husband would check the kid's rooms with a black light. I picked up a pile of clothes on my daughters closet floor one day & got stung by a scorpion sleeping underneath. The worst though was when a scorpion fell out of a vent on to my (then) 6 year old sons head - thankfully it didn't sting him. We learned to make sure that all doors & windows were sealed really good; plus we put screens over the vents on the roof to keep them from falling into the house. The thing that almost did me in was when a mama tarantula had babies in my walk in pantry - we killed over 200 babies! I love living in the country - but not country where scorpions, tarantulas & rattlesnakes live!

Janalyn Voigt said...


I lived for a few years in the Australian Outback where scorpions, giant centepedes, snakes, mammoth acid-spewing cockroaches and a plethora of other unfriendly creatures abounded. I can tell you that, crazy as it might sound, I adapted and even walked barefoot through the grass a time or two without injury.

Scorpions and other creepy crawlies scurry away when they feel the ground vibrate when you walk. Contrary to popular belief, they're not looking for a fight. You are not their normal prey. That said, there was a certain edginess to living in the Outback. Today, I wouldn't trade those memories, though.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Diann,
I was never bitten by a scorpion, but I'll bet it would really hurt.

Stephen & Janet Bly said...

We enjoyed your article on scorpions...not our favorite pests either. Never been bit, but had a scare or two on our travels in the deserts of the west.