Bites and stings



In a 12-hour period I was stung on the bum by a scorpion, zapped on the forearm by a red wasp, and stepped barefoot in a trail of red ants.

It was kind of exhilarating, in a hurty sorta way. And it’s not like I was Indiana Jones-ing. The scorpion got me in bed, the wasp while getting the mail, and the fire ants while cooking in the kitchen.

That’s just part of living in Texas. I’ve gotten used to it now. But one of the biggest differences between Texas and every other state is the number of things that are pointy and sting-y.

Compare Iowa, for example. The arrival of spring meant you could finally shuck the overshoes and heavy coats and roll on the lawn. The grass was so soft it was like natural shag carpet. It invited spirited games of touch football, badminton, and croquet.

If you try to walk barefoot through the typical Texas yard you’ll leave a bloody trail. I’ve had to use pliers to pull out grass burrs from my scarred soles.

Pointy plants here are myriad and predatory. Besides grass burrs (which you can never eradicate) casual walkers are attacked by yucca, cat-claw, mesquite, cactus, and nettles. And that’s just

the plant kingdom. When you move to fauna, Texas critters have developed an impressive arsenal to let you know you arc encroaching on their territory.

Start with scorpions. Is there any creature better designed to inflict pain? Compact seg- mented crawlers with pincers to grasp you while that whip- like tail plunges the hooked barb into your shin and injects the poison subdermally? Add to that the fact they can slither through any crack and curl up and hide in any pile of lawn dry, and you have the perfect stealth weapon.

What could make it more le that? How about having it fl y' Say hello to the wasp family, and I don't mean Anglo-Sax ons.

I opened a truck box only to find it had become a condo for red wasps. They were not happy that I violated their homeowner's covenants and the whole clan came after me to express their displeasure.

A few years back I decided to keep bees. Yes, bees sting. But I had the bee suit, and the smoker to calm them, and I read a book once. I'll feed and keep you, hive denizens, then I'11 harvest and enjoy your de- li.cious honey.

Not Texas bees. They tend to fraternize with their African- ized cousins, breeding swarms of Killer Bees,

One day I opened up a com- promised hive and was liter- ally covered in bees, all trying to kill me. Even though I wore a head-to-toe bee suit, the avenging critters were squeez- ing in the tops of my boots and stinging through the fabric. I had to jump in my trusty red van and drive down the road, so in at intervals to et ou tand brush them off. After three miles I still carried a thousand angry hitchhikers live six x For creatures that only live weeks, they have tb pers th istent dd memoy. t that ac ie off, they waited daily to greet nle at my front door.

I decided store honey tastes

just as good.

owhai ann,

d you Moving the up blthe ack food chain, the brown recluse, and the rattlesnake. At least it has the decency to alert you before it kills you.

Longhorns advertise then pO1I1t111CSS in their name. Back in Iowa, our cattle are polled. In "Texas, even the toads have horns.

Grant Vood had it right. He paiutecl Midwestern hills and trees that appear voluptuous. I believe he added the pitchfork to American Gothie just to try his hand at painting some- thing that wasn't smooth and round.

I'm not complaining. Agari- tas taste sweeter when you lacerate your forearms har- vesting the berries. There is something exhilarating about getting injected with a cock- tail of insect venoms. You nev- er feel alive until you've nearly been killed.

But I've conic to a conclu- sion: you have to be sharp to survive in Texas.

Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR, www


Contact ns him net at phil®fullhouse-