In my frantic quest to get the house and yard in order for our one year absence, I’ve been planting flowerbeds, filling sinkholes with dirt, spreading pinestraw (a unique Georgian groundcover/mulch), and hauling lots of landscaping materials from point A to point B. As I was clearing out the trailer that I use to haul stuff around with Tom’s John Deere tractor (we have a BIG yard), I grabbed a stack of muddy cardboard rectangles my father-in-law had used in his planting efforts the previous month. With all my 5’2″ might, I stretched my length-challenged arms around the edges, and subsequently found the dirty, decaying slabs pressed against my face and torso. I made my way to the curb, where the trashcan awaited, and with a mighty heave flung them onto the top of the container. Much to my horror, I discovered that a four inch scorpion had just hitched a ride down the driveway and been pressed between the cardboard and my midsection. I shrieked and ran to find my very large husband, whom I instructed to be a good protector and “go get it.” The prehistoric, reptilian-looking arachnid was nowhere to be found (it probably made its way into the mounds of trash beneath), but Tom knew that it was not a figment of my imagination. You see, since moving to Georgia, we’ve had no fewer than six scorpions in the house, though none to rival the size of this one. If I had only read the article I printed out upon our first encounter with the beasts, I would have known that “Scorpions are nocturnal and hide under debris, including boards, rocks, tree bark and rubbish piles during the day. They’re attracted to areas that provide shelter, moisture and their prey — mostly insects,” I might have been a little more careful. (See the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for more if you’re interested.)
When my stepfather visited this week, he asked, “Aren’t there going to be a lot of dangers on your trip?” “Like scorpions,” I thought. Tom assured him that the greatest danger our children will encounter during the next year will be him. He is perhaps the most loving father on the planet, but if the big ones fail to do their schoolwork or the little ones refuse to hold our hands in a crowd, he’ll waste no time in setting them straight. We do not particularly fear exotic, deadly critters, suicidal terrorists, or bird flu; we wouldn’t be doing this if we did. Our biggest concerns while traveling will be the very same ones we face at home: looking both ways before crossing the street, wandering off at the sight of something shiny or a video game arcade, slamming fingers in doors, and getting stung by bees.
We are not naive to the dangers that exist in our lives or to the need for extreme vigilance in protecting our children, but given the proper medical prophylaxis and common sense, we do not believe they will be much greater on the road than they are in the Atlanta suburbs. So remember, no matter where you are, don’t walk in tall grass (snakes) and check wood and debris piles for nasty critters before clearing them.