The Santa Ana winds are blowing in So Cal today. It's warm and clear out, which is nice, but the house can heat up quickly. Mom and I ran some errands this morning. When we got back I immediately opened the shuttered doors to circulate some fresh air around the house. Now, I've done this about 8,000 times in my life so I don't think much about it. Unfortunately, I glanced forward too late and saw this bastard on the inside of the screen about 5 inches from my nose. I literally staggered back a couple of steps and moaned "Oh God." I don't care how cool you are about critters but unexpectedly finding a praying mantis mere inches from your face can freak just about anyone out. Here he is staring me down after I brushed him of the screen. Did I mention he was about 4 inches long? *shudder*
I pride myself on not being a wimpy girl. I was raised with a set of outdoor friendly family and friends. My Dad is a life long birder and my favorite uncle raised reptiles. I grew up camping, bird watching and holding snakes and lizards regularly. When a swarm of bees fell in love with a shrub in the back yard, Dad and I would have bee fights. That is, we'd flick them at each other. I was a favorite room mate in the dorms because I had no problem catching and releasing the spiders and bugs at all hours of night and day. Generally, I only freak out about critters when surprised.
It think the surprise factor became an issue when I was about 7 years old. I was taking a shower when Dad decided it would be hilarious to drop a live frog over the top of the shower door and to my feet. (Dad is the oldest of ten kids so tormenting children has been a hobby of his since about the age of four.) I danced around and screamed and told him off before grabbing a towel and running out of the shower. He still laughs about that one but it's the reason I always lock the bathroom door, to this day, if anyone is in the house while I shower. Dad is the oldest of ten kids so tormenting children has been a hobby of his since about the age of four.
Another famous freak out happened when I was cutting back the vines on a wall by the pool. I was working on about four feet of pavement with the pool behind me. I had cut a lot of brush and stood between two large piles of vines and leaves when I made a cut and saw a big rat run away. Ok gross, but I kept cutting. I then found what the rat was running from. I found a nest of baby rats. They were a disgusting, writhing pink mass. There eyes weren't even open yet. To this day it's one of the most vile things I've ever seen. I just stood there trapped between the piles of brush and the pool. I screamed and Dad ran out. His immediately reaction was to laugh his ass off then he quickly ran over to clear away the piles that had me pinned in. Looking back I think he laughed then realized I might have been screaming because of a rattle snake. A snake is about the only find we take seriously around here. Dad's faced down many rattle snakes in the yard of this house. He once stood in the yard calling out for us for about 15 minutes before anyone came to his rescue. It was about 7:00 in the morning and it took a while for us to wake up. I eventually got out there because I realized the dog was barking his head off. Dad was sort of pinned against the fence. Dad calmly asked me to get a shovel for him. I ran back with it and he swiftly cut the snakes head off.
Living in Southern California means taking a few preventative measures in every day life. For instance, we never hang anything heavy over our beds and we pack our book cases tightly so nothing can fly off at us during an earthquake. When walking down outdoor steps we keep an eye out for rattle snakes because they love to settle in the crook of steps. It sounds more frightening than it is but these little tips are good to keep in mind. Of course, there is little one can do about dying from a heart attack because a gross winged insect decides to kick it at eye level.