Housesitters — please open your book to chapter 2, “Myriapodology and Mini Pizzas”

Remember, last week, all those teasers of other stories? Yes? Here’s part two.

Located in the wilds of Austin’s greenbelt is, well, suburban wilderness. Coyotes aren’t unheard of out here. Deer — baby deer, munching deer, leaping deer, deer with antlers — abound. The rock squirrel reminds you that a squirrel is a rodent. And centipedes come in giant size. This is where our lesson in myriapodology starts.

The Texas Redheaded Centipede is approximately the same length as a very small dog. Supposedly it prefers rocky areas and doesn’t care to be out in the hot part of the day. Although it can be seen crawling around a door frame in the middle of a summer’s afternoon. Its bite is painful, but not particularly dangerous unless you are allergic to these types of bites or very small. It prefers eating small animals and insects such as toads and moths. Which are about the size of this tiny dog.

These centipedes use aposematic coloration to warn off predators. Its red head, black body and orange-yellow legs are equally effective at alerting a human to its presence. Less known, but equally effective, is its ability to bar entry to a cool house causing a hot and thirsty tiny dog and housesitter to be trapped outside after a long walk.  (See Illustration 1)

Illustration 1

Did you see? Notice the tiny dog at the bottom right and the terrifying centipede at the top left walking across the door. Also, notice the hot sun that the tiny, thirsty dog and the human just finished taking a long walk in. When confronted by this centipede three possibilities are offered for an outcome. 1) Wait out the centipede in the hot sun. 2) The centipede sensing the human’s presence attacks her while trying to unlock the door. 3) The centipede sensing the human’s presence attempts to attack her, instead falls on the tiny dog, attacks and being the exact same size, kills the dog.

These are the only three possibilities because the human has made sure to lock every door before leaving in order to prevent anything bad happening.  Which, okay, technically nothing bad did happen. Sure, I was on edge the whole rest of the time. Every time I opened the door, every time the cat pounced a flash of light, every time the dog fell asleep…I wondered if the Texas Redheaded Centipede was back.

As another example of how things just happened when at this house I can hardly be blamed for adding this story to my repertoire. On the list of firsts being trapped outside by a giant centipede belonged with all the others. Such as the Christmas where 20 minutes after the family left I had managed to knock down their 10′ Christmas Tree. (See Illustration 2)

Illustration 2

Most of the time it was a disaster adverted — like when their cat successfully guarded the house from a fox or similar animal. It was night and there weren’t a lot of lights in the back to be able to make out all the details, but I very clearly watched that cat stand off against a larger animal. They are stories all the same. And they really do go back and back until we get to the original disaster moment. This night is when it all started. (See Illustration 3)

Illustration 3

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