I Thought I Wanted to Move to Austin, Texas

August 13, 2011

Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue along Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TXAustin, land of cool, hip people, with plenty of organic and natural food stores, a bleeding edge music scene (Timbuk3 and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others) and no state income tax. It sounded (sort of) like Shangri-La. What other town do you know of which loved ax-man Stevie Ray Vaughan enough to erect a statue of him? This one’s along Lady Bird Lake in Austin (Texas Governor Ann Richards proclaimed October 3 — Stevie’s birthday — as “Stevie Ray Vaughan Day,” in 1991. An annual motorcycle ride followed by a concert in Central Texas raises money for the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund.).

True, it’s been beyond hot in Texas this summer. And dry. Supposedly, the current Texas drought exceeds conditions in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. (A friend in Plano, north of Dallas, says the endless heat has melted railroad tracks. The West Texas town of Big Spring is building a $13 million sewage plant, where urine will be mixed with lake water, treated in a three-step process and then provided to the public as . . . drinking water. Why am I telling you this? Just more fun stuff about Texas.) Housing costs in the metropolitan Austin area (about 1.7 million residents) are high. Higher than anywhere else in the state.

Dust Storm Approaching Stratford, TX in 1935

But my on-again, off-again love affair with Austin finally ended about a week ago, courtesy of my Isle of Man friends at The Ranger’s Blog. The Ranger posted a photo of this Austinite:

Giant Red-Headed Centipede

It’s a giant red-headed centipede (Scolopendra heros), and it looks noticeably worse than the Florida cockroach, or palmetto bug (Eurycotis floridana). These cockroaches grow to about 1-1/2 to 2” in length. Having once lived in a home along a Florida bayou, I can tell you that it’s true that these cockroaches love warm, damp areas (like along a bayou). They loved to come indoors in the evening to my hot, damp shower and my hot kitchen. While living next to a bayou may sound romantic, it’s not. One dares not dangle one’s feet over the edge of a dock, or walk along the shoreline, especially at night, lest an alligator lunge out of the darkness to dine on you. It was also unnerving to hear them go “plop”, as they reached the end of the dock, diving into the inky-black nighttime water. You could hear them; you just couldn’t see them.

Now back to the undesirable centipedes. An adult giant red-headed centipede grows from 6-1/2 to 8” long. Outdoors, it likes to live under stones and logs. Indoors, one of their favorite hiding places is. . .shoes. Another friend, whose mother served in the military, recalled seeing her mother shaking out her boots before putting them on each day, while stationed in TX. Texas, a state of mind and a place I will always love. From afar.

Read about two new endangered species here in Kentucky. I promise, they don’t look like cockroaches, or centipedes which look like 1950s movie props where aliens invade Earth.

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