The desert is a place of great beauty, and great danger.
Flash floods, extreme heat, rattlesnakes, side winders – you must be on guard all the time you are out there.
As someone who grew up in a desert area, I got used to most of the dangers. The rattlesnakes were certainly a concern, but I learned early to keep an eye and ear out for them. Flash floods are incredibly deadly, but if you know where to camp – not in washes – and you keep an eye on the sky you should be fine.
And don’t get me started about tarantulas. I love those things, even though I am not a spider fan. I have seen them in them in the wild, and the last thing they want is to be anywhere near people.
No, there was only one thing that really scared me. Thankfully, I only saw a few in the wild, but I was always cautious.
I am talking about scorpions. Just writing that word gives me the chills.
Let’s face it – scorpions are incredibly scary looking. Pinchers up and ready. That huge stinger on the tail poised to make your day very bad very quickly.
So, when I read last week about a swarm of scorpions in Egypt coming out of their nests due to extreme weather, I was reminded of my fear of these arachnids.
According to the news item I read from the BBC, at least 450 people were injured by scorpions who sought shelter in homes. It was so bad that three people died.
Of the more than 1,700 species of scorpions, all sting and have venom. Yes, all of them. Thankfully, only 25 species have a venom capable of killing humans.
Only 25 – as if one isn’t bad enough.
Growing up in a desert area, we spent plenty of time outside. The first time I saw a scorpion in the wild I was about 7. My dad had taken us to watch the jets take off and land at the Marine Corps Air Station in town. As a kid, I was goofing around lifting rocks and pieces of wood when a scorpion appeared.
I still remember it well, even though it was decades ago. My dad sprang into action, knocking me out of the way and killing the scorpion with his shoe. I can tell you, seeing him freaked out freaked me out worse.
After that, I was always on guard. We camped all the time in the desert, and I kept my shoes with me in my sleeping bag at night. Don’t want a surprise when you slip your shoes on in the morning.
I also tried to always sleep off the ground. That meant we usually slept in the bed of a truck, or at least on a cot.
I avoided seeing another scorpion until I was about 32, believe it or not. I was in the Air force Reserve and had a drill weekend at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix. We went to dinner at the house of someone I worked with – a beautiful place out in virgin desert. She warned us that they had seen come scorpions in the house and I almost bolted for the door.
I didn’t, but on a tour of the house we had to capture not one, not two, but three scorpions.
I made it through dinner, but suggested they sell the house and burn all their belongings.
While I miss my desert home from time to time, I do not miss the possibility of being stung by a scorpion. Snow can be a pain, but I never have to worry about being stalked and stung by snow.
Oh, and I won’t be traveling to Egypt anytime soon.