By MIKE CORN
Everyone knows the diddy about lions, tigers and bears -- oh my.
But spiders and scorpions? Who knew?
I do now, that much is for certain.
While talking with David Hille about his ongoing problems with a crush of deer in the upper end of the Cedar Bluff wildlife area, he made an otherwise innocent mention of spotting a tarantula while checking cattle.
Never one to shy away from the absurd, even though I'm loathe to have anything to do with spiders, I was quickly curious.
Spiders aren't such a common sight at his Trego County ranch, spotted only occasionally and during the fall of the year when -- to borrow slightly from Shrek -- male spiders go in search of "gurl" spiders.
So I told him to let me know if he spotted more.
He was quick to call back, letting me know that not only did he spot one, but he captured it as well.
That was a weekend and I was off to greener pastures, literally, as I headed east where enough rain had fallen to keep the grass green and growing. (Not at all like home, where I've only mowed half my yard. Yes, half, and only once.)
While he was going to keep the spider for me to see, it was soon commandeered away by a fellow church member and Washington Grade School teacher who thought it might be cool for her students to see.
While I was quick to think, aw, shucks, I also reasoned the educational opportunities for students far outweighed my nagging curiosity.
So, I shrugged it off, and told Hille if he was so lucky as to find a third to let me know.
He did, and in fact now has captured six of them this fall.
After the third, however, I was soon en route to get my spider, creepy and crawly as they might be.
First, however, Wikipedia was the answer machine, telling me tarantualas -- Texas brown ones at that -- are native to southern Kansas. Don't tell anyone, but Trego County is not in southern Kansas.
Males, those out searching for girl spiders, don't live long. Females, on the other hand, have been known to live 30 years in captivity, where they are considered to be good pets because they are so docile.
Thanks, but no thanks. I have a dog and he's enough to wear me out.
Hille then mentioned the presence of scorpions on the ranch, not so surprising considering the limestone outcroppings there.
So, when I went to pick up my new spider, we went searching for scorpions.
They were hiding of course, but we found a few. Five to be exact.
So there I was the brand new owner of a tarantula and five scorpions.
And to think I just wanted some photos.
Undaunted, I passed along my new "pets" to daughter Emma, who immediately wanted them for school show-and-tell.
Not a good idea for venomous critters. So I agreed to go along, show them and tell the students what little I knew.
It didn't take long.
But the kids oohed and ahed just the same, while the creatures were safely in glass jars.
It was a learning experience for me as well, becoming aware of the range of critters out in the wild.
Sure, they're venomous, but not overly so. Still, you wouldn't want them running loose in your house.
Outside, well away from the house, they're not such a bad thing.
And so intriguing to look at. Or photograph.
I loved it as much as the kids.