One of the exciting things about moving to a new place is experiencing the local wildlife. I seem to be especially fortunate in encountering insects and household pests. In Vienna I found bloody ticks in my bed, Coeur d’Alene was the site of a month long Ant Invasion and Great Ant Battle which I eventually lost, Florence boasted a large Tiger Mosquito population (named for their silent stealth, size, and voracious appetite for human blood) Changchun had me on my knees and raging as I scraped away smelly fungus with some kind of beetle living inside, and St. Petersburg welcomed me with bed bugs chomping on my eyelids in the middle of the night.
I’ve been pleased with the vast variety of insects that have invaded my home. Too much of one species would be very dull, indeed, and I am happy to announce that the pests surrounding my new home in Missoula are wasps. The events of this morning inspired me to recount the different animals I’ve met in the last week.
All of the overhangs around my building are covered with wasp/hornet/Stinging Insects of Death nests. I counted at least 10 on my back deck alone. With the help of my sister and brother-in-law, we’ve been taking out the nests with spray and capturing them in one of those yellow traps. I estimated that there were about 40 wasps in the trap this morning. We’ve derived great satisfaction in watching the little buggers drop dead.
I joined a forestry major/Mountain Man for a journey of exploration and swimming along the Blackfoot River. His quick eye spotted some crawdads among the rocks and we lost no time in picking them up and admiring the streaks of blue and red along their crustacean bodies while their claws flailed wildly but safely out of reach of our fingers.
Usually I’m ecstatic to meet kittens, but this one made me sad. I’d gone to the Celtic Festival over the weekend to hear the music and see the dancing. I joined a group of people in the shade and pulled out my book, only to be interrupted by a kitten scampering across the grass and plunging over the bank towards the river. He was followed by two women who coaxed him back up, and they brought him over to his owner. The owner was a drunk, high young man in filthy clothing who was weaving and dancing while cussing out the local police. When the kitten was returned to him, he ignored it as he bounced away, again. Another man lying on the ground gave the kitten a piece of his hamburger, and after that the cat wouldn’t stop crawling on him and asking for more. I pulled the cat over to a young family and we played with him for a while. The parents and I wondered aloud if we should just take the cat. He clearly wasn’t being properly cared for. He would very easily get lost in this crowd if the bum kept letting him wander away, and he was also hungry and thirsty. I contemplated keeping him temporarily in my own apartment, but I scratched that idea when I realized that I’m not home for most of the day, and my apartment gets scorching hot. I thought about taking him to a shelter, but how would I get him there on my bike? The man disappeared with the cat, and I regretted not stealing the animal when I had the chance, and even spent some time trying to find him again. During my search, I got into a two-hour spiritual and religious discussion with an avid atheist, and I dared him to come to the Skull Church event that evening. I don’t know if ‘Highway’ showed up, but I did see Kitten Man join the altar call and proclaim a public devotion to Jesus.
This morning I was awakened at 6:00 by a whining at my back door. The neighbor’s golden lab had crawled under the wall dividing our back balconies. This wasn’t the first time he’d done this: he also tried to come through my door when I was making chicken. This time he had a special surprise for me. In what I assume was punishment for not sharing my chicken, he had deposited several plops of diarrhea all over my balcony. His good sense of aesthetic judgement led him to leave each pile so that they formed one elegant and perfect circle. I tried to shove him back under the wall, but when I left for work this morning he was still sitting by my door, grinning like an idiot and perfectly pleased with himself.
Still disgruntled from the dog diarrhea incident, I hopped into the shower. In the midst of lathering and shampooing I reached down to clear the drain from what I assumed was a knot of my long brown hair. What I flung from me in horror turned out not to be a snarl of long brown hair, but long brown legs. I’m usually not fussed by spiders, but this guy was huge, with eight drowned legs sticking out unnaturally from his ugly body. My ‘research’ (Google images) has led me to the amateur conclusion that a male hobo spider was the little beast that dared to invade my shower space. I’ll be buying some traps so none of his perverted friends will attempt the same thing.
That concludes this episode of ‘This Week in the Animal Kingdom.’ Tune in next week, when hopefully the categories will be titled, ‘That Joyous and Glorious Day When I was Finally Gifted a Baby Otter and a Fat-Tailed Gecko.’