City Girl, Country Mouse
Guest Post by Lynn Viehl, author of After Midnight
Guest Post by Lynn Viehl, author of After Midnight
I grew up in South Florida, and everyone hates me for this. Okay, I could wear a bikini and go to the beach pretty much any day – even on Christmas Day – and I never had to worry about getting a tan; I always had one. Living close to and later working in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, two of the busiest places in the southern U.S., taught me to be quite street-wise. By the time I left home and began traveling around the country, I always felt at home in any city.
Eventually I came home again, married a wonderful guy and had two kids. When my guy got a job transfer, he told me we’d be moving to a small town in Central Florida. I’d never lived or even visited the country, but I was a city girl; I could handle it. We’d be near Orlando (great city) and able to take our kids to Disney World whenever we wanted. It wasn’t like we were leaving civilization behind or anything.
We drove up to our new town to look at houses, but we didn’t get to our hotel until after dark. I did notice that things kept getting narrower and more deserted, until we ended up on this tiny
little two-lane county road that was completely black.
“Where are the street lights?” I asked my guy. When he told me there weren’t any, I pointed out the window. “Then what are those white sparkly things way over there?”
He snickered. “Uh, stars.”
The next day we went to look at properties. In the daylight I could finally take a good look around, although I didn’t see a town. I saw endless pastures, woods, swamps, farm houses and cows and goats and chickens and pigs and stuff. I even saw some people in the distance actually riding horses, just like in the movies. Still, no town appeared. As we passed one place I noticed a man driving an enormous tractor across a field, and asked my guy if he was plowing or planting something.
“He’s bush-hogging,” he said, and then saw my expression. “It means he’s mowing the lawn.”
“That’s a lawn?” My eyes practically popped out of my head. “That’s a lawn mower?”
We found a nice house in a good area, and while our yard was roughly equal in size to two blocks back in our old neighborhood, we bought the place. On the first day in our new home I saw my guy off to work and then went to take out the trash to the big cans under one of our oak trees. As soon as I touched the handle something burned me, and as I shrieked in pain I shook off something green and spiny that started crawling toward my shoe. I ran around the side of the house to use the hose to wash my burned hand, but as I turned it on I looked and saw evil eyes
watching me. An enormous monster was standing at our fence, not five yards away. He looked like he intended to step over the top rail, stroll over and bite off my head.
I locked myself in the house until my guy got home from work, and showed him the still-burning
welts on my hand.
“That must have been a buck moth caterpillar,” he said. “The oak trees are full of them.”
“What about that monster?” I demanded. When he told me it was just the neighbor’s horse, I got mad. “I know what a horse looks like, you know. They had one at the last birthday party I took the kids to. That thing out there was like ten times bigger.”
“That’s because it’s a horse, not a pony. And he doesn’t want to bite off your head.” He patted
my shoulder. “Stop being such a city mouse.”
That night as I was walking the dog, I saw what looked like a skinny, dirty German shepherd race across the yard and jump a four-foot fence in a single bound (that was actually a coyote, my guy informed me.) The next morning I went out to get the paper, and spotted a huge silver-blue dragonfly hovering over the roses that tried to swoop down on my head (that, my guy said patiently, was not a bug, but a hummingbird.) Later that week as I was sweeping the porch, I got chased back into the house by two dusty gray helmets ambling toward me (tortoises, my guy said.)
“Every time I go outside I feel like Dorothy,” I complained. “Tiptoeing around and waiting for the lions and tigers and bears to show up.”
“We’re living in the country now, honey,” my guy said. “You’re going to run into all kinds of wonderful critters, but there won’t be any lions, tigers or bears. I promise.”
I hoped he was right, but I kept seeing things that were not so wonderful, like huge mutant grasshoppers, swarms of bats, and hairy light brown spiders as big as my hand that liked to jump at me. I admit, I also freaked out a little over finding a six-foot long molted snake skin caught on our fence (later we learned it belonged to a black racer, a snake farmers loved because they ate rats.) Nor did I appreciate finding a three-foot version of the same snake coming out of one of our bird houses.
But gradually I did get used to all the critters, and slowly stopped locking myself in the house so often. Maybe it was because I figured out that I scared them as much as they scared me. Like when my daughter began taking horseback riding lessons. Seeing my tiny girl climb into the saddle made me give the huge monster my version of the evil eye. He must have thought I was going to bite his head off, because he behaved like a perfect gentleman. My critter encounters were even fun at times, like when I found a Carolina wren nesting in one of my potted plants on our back porch, and got to watch her babies hatch and grow up.
I also soon learned that birds would nest practically anywhere, like the time we went out to have a cookout and I saw a bird fly out of our grill.
“Honey,” I said to my guy, “Don’t turn the grill on.” When he asked why, I suggested he lift the lid first (and then we didn’t grill for a month after that.)
About six months later we went to at a neighbor’s Christmas party, and I listened as one of the local farmers complained about losing half his chickens and all of his turkeys in one night to a hungry midnight thief.
“Was it a fox?” I asked, feeling a little smug and knowledgeable.
"Nah," he said. "Probably a bear."
Thanks so much for sharing with us what life in the country is like, Lynn! :)
Check back tomorrow for a huge giveaway!