Real-Life Living Arrangements: Texas Living

Posted on 28 September 2010

In honor of my forthcoming short story collection, Living Arrangements, I’ll be posting some real-life living arrangement stories here on the blog. Please contact me if you’d like to share your own story.

First, what is with so many people I know moving to Texas? I’m not saying I dislike Texas…it’s the home of Dr Pepper, after all. Houston has some great art museums and I actually had fun at the Houston rodeo. Downtown Fort Worth was charming. San Antonio was fun, even if it was insanely hot and all the bean dishes I tried to order had lard in them. I’ve heard very good things about Austin. Even so, I’m not a fan of guns or steak or needing a/c year round. And now Jenny’s homeowner experiences have not exactly made me more comfortable with the Lone Star state.

Jenny grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, and stayed here until she had her Ph.D. and was ready to embark on post-doctoral neuroimaging pursuits (don’t ask me, I was an English major), which eventually landed her in Texas. “Let me explain something about Texas…and more importantly, Texans,” she wrote. “They are a special breed. They do not appreciate anyone saying anything positive about any other state. They are completely convinced that Texas could, and should, break away from the US of A and be its own nation. If it happened tomorrow, I’m sure they would squeal with delight, and say it’s about G-d time!”

Jenny became a first-time homeowner in Texas. She had lots of moving and lawn mower drama, but I know what you’re really here for: deadly, disgusting bugs. Here’s her story in her own words:

“After years of apartment living, and with the housing market in such dire shape, I toyed with the idea of becoming a homeowner, even though I really had no desire to be one. I decided to go with a builder so I wouldn’t have to do anything maintenance-y. I had no idea what to expect, but I thought it would all work out. And it did…at least until Spring rolled around. That’s when the grass started growing (and thus, needed mowing), the bugs started coming out of hibernation (and subsequently, trying to get out of the frying pan that is the Texas sun by residing in ‘cooler’ places – aka the house), and things in the house started settling.

“This leads me to one part of home ownership that I’m not too fond of. Bugs. Spiders. Basically, anything with four legs that I did not adopt to be a part of my family (well, the puppy is still questionable, kidding of course). I noticed a big-ass spider on my house near the ground. I don’t like to curse, but it was gigantic, and black, and had red thingies on it, and thus earns the title of big-ass. Now everyone up North, when they hear of a black spider with red, immediately thinks black widow, and I did too…but there was a certain part of me that said ‘This is Texas, surely there are other black spiders with red things on them’…so I sprayed the spider, put it (and its egg sac) in a plastic bag, sealed it up, and immediately began Googling my find. Sure enough, it was a black widow. I was proud that I had killed the sole black widow in my yard, and captured the egg sac so as not to have this issue anymore. I never walked out barefoot again, though.

“It was about 2 weeks later that I ran into another one while emptying out the baby pool that I use for my dogs. I apparently flooded her and her buddies out of their homes…and they were ANGRY. I stomped on that one. Disgusting, for sure.

“It’s funny how your mindset shifts when you encounter something like a black widow. I went from complete paranoia, to ‘Well, as long as they’re outside, it’s not so bad’…but then the unthinkable happened. I noticed a web in my garage. No big deal. I’m all about spiders if they keep the mosquito population under control and do their job. But one day, I saw what looked like a dead spider in the web. I started to spray him when Mrs. Black Widow came charging down. I nearly died. She was gigantic, and angry that I was spraying her meal. I sprayed her too, but she didn’t want to die. I was horrified. The garage was sacred territory…only one door away from the inside of my house. She eventually died and I toyed with the idea of an exterminator, but being kinda cheap and stubborn, I decided to try myself. I spent about $75 on extermination products…sprayed everywhere I could think of to create a ‘barrier’ and called it a day. I asked my neighbor who never talks if he’s ever had a black widow problem and he gave me this look like I had just given birth to 10 aliens, and said “No” in such a valley girl way that I was half tempted to smack him. But I didn’t.

“I was excited that I was leaving for vacation, and thus wouldn’t have to deal with my spiders. My plane flew out of Killeen at 5:30am, so I was up bright and early. I let the dogs out at around 3:30am. Neither of my dogs are particularly vocal, so when they do bark, I pay attention because it’s usually not good. Casey, the puppy, started barking…and didn’t stop. I was scared to look outside, but when I did I saw her in her hunting stance, with Cooper (my older dog) a couple feet behind her giving me that look like ‘b!tch is crazy!’ I scurried outside, only to find a tarantula the size of my fist running away. Dear God. I freaked like I had never freaked before and instantly turned to my good friend Google to make sure tarantulas aren’t harmful to dogs, followed by a fruitless  search on ‘How to get rid of tarantulas’. I got the dogs inside and decided I just needed to go on vacation and pretend, once again, that the whole thing never happened.

“I returned home and didn’t see my tarantula buddy. However, over the next couple of days, I found two more black widows outside, one at the top of my patio right by the door to the backyard. That was the final straw. I called the exterminator the next day. He came by and found three more with egg sacs along my fence. Soon, all sorts of bugs were found lying on the garage floor (including two more black widows) and around the house. It was marvelous.

“As for the tarantula, he now resides and is part of our family. He apparently kills scorpions, and as I personally find tarantulas > scorpions, I’m ok with that. However, if he slacks on his duties, he’s a goner. If I ever see him, that is.

“All in all, it’s been a big adventure. And as much drama as it’s been, I’ve thoroughly loved the memories that I’ve made. My expert huntress puppy identifies most insects that I don’t want around and promptly plays with them which generally leads to their death, which makes her mother very proud. Cooper sits and watches and pretends he’s not related (and technically, he isn’t). Oh, and by the way, I’ve asked my other neighbors about the black widows, and they have them too. Misery loves company!”

Thanks, Jenny. I am now thoroughly sick to my stomach and convinced something is crawling on me. Cheers.

Black widow photo: Scott Kinmartin

1 Response to Real-Life Living Arrangements: Texas Living

  • margosita says:

    Well. That was uncomfortable. I am not a spider fan (clearly), but I do sort of like the happy ending with the tarantula hanging around doing away with scorpions and the neighbors all in it together!

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