Monday, August 3, 2009


Spiders… insects… bugs… crustaceans… they’re all the same, when they’re big enough to be fitted for a saddle.

Living in the woods along Raccoon Creek, our family suffers more than our share of extra-large creepy crawlers. Any of us, glimpsing a bug out of the corner of our eye, may easily mistake it for one of the family pets.

Common are earwigs the size of scorpions, spiders with a leg-span of 4 - 5 inches, mosquitoes whose buzzing could be mistaken for low flying aircraft, and houseflies that cause bruising when they happen to ricochet off an unvigilant victim. We’ve got them all, and they’re all gargantuan.

Buddy was somewhere between a pup and a grown dog when his first summer arrived. Bugs hadn’t been a part of his earliest months, and they were proving to be a novelty as well as a supplemental food source for the hungry young hound. Buddy could often be found sitting on the front porch, where he attentively watched for the hapless cricket, moth, or daddy-long-legs spider that might come within striking range.

It was late summer, and the cicadas were nearing the peak of their incessantly pulsating waves of racket when Buddy discovered they were easy prey. For those unfamiliar with cicadas; they are a stout, flying insect that appear each year during the dog days of summer, spending their days and nights singing to woo a mate. The ones around our house are as big as a hippo’s thumb. Whenever Buddy would catch one, he would hungrily scarf it down with two or three snaps of his long snout.

One morning, our mailman, Sam, was driving up the lane to drop a package at the house. On his way up the wooded drive, Sam spooked a couple of cicadas that flew noisily ahead of him. Buddy had heard the familiar sound of Sam's truck, and was waiting to torment the mailman when he recognized the mid-morning snack that was winging his direction. I watched as the excited mutt ran out and leapt to grab a cicada, just as the rattle-with-wings took a decided dive.

The cicada shot down Buddy’s maw, causing him to stop hard in the middle of the drive where he violently shook his head before running a couple of figure eights. Expecting a howl of displeasure, I was surprised when Buddy, instead, opened his jaws wide and bleated… like a sheep. This happened several more times—Buddy opening his mouth to howl, and the pulsating rhythm of the cicada changing his usually strong voice into the plaintiff wail of a wooly ruminant. It was apparent that the cicada had remained intact on its decent, and was busy inside Buddy’s gullet expressing its own indignation at its current circumstance.

Sam studied this catastrophe for a moment before deciding it was safe to get out of his truck and hand me the package. Without a word, Sam looked at Buddy, then me, then back at Buddy before getting into his truck and driving away, laughing and shaking his head.

Eventually, the cicada fell silent and Buddy crawled under the porch where he stayed until mid-morning the next day.

Now, whenever Buddy hears the mail truck, he just crawls under the porch. I guess the embarrassment is just too much for him.

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