TARANTULAS — OOH, SO HALLOWEEN CREEPY
Cochran Cornell the Cantankerous Cockroach
I was taken aback when I read about the Coarsegold Tarantula Awareness Festival that celebrates the black and brown, doughnut-size spider each October on the Saturday before Halloween.
The shoulder of my creator, Carolyn Cornell Holland, is a cozy place to be on a crisp fall morning. That’s where I was on October 21, when I noticed the newspaper article she was reading.* The sub-headline, Creeping in California, didn’t prepare me for the content—about a goofy lady, Diane Boland, 61, who started this festival in 1997 to atone for crushing a tarantula with her car.
The festival time was chosen because the tarantula’s mating season, October to November, peaks on Halloween
Now I’m certain that Diane has disposed permanently of, dismembered, or disabled one of my ilk, a German cockroach. Why didn’t she begin a festival to honor us? Don’t we qualify for being creepy enough for Halloween? Aren’t some people terrified of us? This terror has even been named: katsaridaphobia—fear of cockroaches. Although why humans fear us to that terror level seems extreme to me. They have such misconceptions. OK, so we are hyper-speedy and prolific. And we can sometimes potentially cause of disease and create filth (a rumor, I say, a rumor). Or perhaps they just fear insects in general. Humans simply have a lack of healthy respect for us.
It’s just not enough for someone to create an institution that honors us. You might see why I fumed when reading that the tarantula is celebrated but we cockroaches are not.
Sometime I’d like to make a tarantula movie. The horror of their gruesome activities would certainly inspire compassionate human beings to boycott Diane’s festival, especially if I depict a scene of how they digest a meal: Tarantulas don’t have chewing mouthparts, so what they do is inject the venom with their fangs and then take up the prey’s juices once the venom has turned its internal organs to liquid, explained entomologist Walt Bentley, 63 (the University of California’s Kearney Agricultural Center).
hitthetrail website states: Tarantulas use their venom to help capture and digest insects, small birds, and rodents. When a tarantula bites it prey, a digestive enzyme in its secretion goes to work literally dissolving it from the inside out. This allows the tarantula to “sip” the innards out of the shell of its victim. Yummy!**
A tarantula’s venom is not at all lethal to a human, the website continues: If you harass a tarantula enough, they will bite, but this will only cause a little pain and swelling. And to have them bite you, you have to be handling them in the first place! They are not exactly speed demons that are going to chase you down and attack! Some tarantulas will actually allow you to handle them if you are gentle and don’t make any sudden moves.
In fact, many people keep tarantulas as pets!
Pet tarantulas. Hmmm. Let me tell you a story of one of Carolyn’s early life boyfriends.
She met him through her participation in Junior Achievement in Buffalo, New York. The young Polish man’s name was Stanley. Now the Polish version of Stanley is Stanislaw. However, Carolyn recalls it was Stashu. So to the Internet she went. She discovered the typical nickname for a person with the Polish name of Stanley is Staash.***
Stashu attended a different high school, a kind of rough one. His parents owned a mom and pop corner store, and I believe they lived above the store.
Now, Stashu had a kind of different hobby—raising tarantulas in the basement of his family’s real estate. Occasionally, he told Carolyn, they had to close the store because a tarantula escaped.
Carolyn built up her courage once to enter the basement to see the creepy critters. Ooh, they were intimidating, she told me, but she refused to leave, and even caressed one.
They both entered the high school science fair. Carolyn won a prize, but Stashu didn’t. Because she had invited him to her school prom, she didn’t inform him of her win until after the dance was done. Sure enough, he reacted like a macho man and didn’t call her for a looong time.
Anyway, he finally did contact her and they dated periodically until her marriage. Except when he did a tour of duty in Viet Nam.
He called her a few months after the wedding. She told him that she was now a married lady and couldn’t go out with him.
“I don’t believe you,” he said.
“He’s sitting right here,” Carolyn said.
Stashu declined to talk with Monte. However, he did try to sell her an insurance policy. She gratefully declined. Over forty years later, she wonders what happened to him.
Anyway, back to the tarantula festival, which features a hairy-legs contest, tatantula races, and an arachnid petting zoo. It’s a chance to have a lot of wild, wacky fun while at the same time celebrating how important the tarantulas are for the environment, according to Diane.
Perhaps Stashu will attend this event—it’s right up his alley.
Carolyn must have read my thoughts as I still wondered why cockroaches aren’t celebrated. She wandered back to the computer and typed cockroach celebrations in the search engine.
Were we ever surprised! Up comes this name: Michael Boudin, of Plano, Texas, where he created the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum.****
Carolyn will do a post on that celebration next month. Watch for it!
Tarantula photo link: http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/school/dondero/msm/spider/tarindex.html
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