Of Spiders, Horny Toads and Serial Killers

by Debbie Gibbs McCoy

In 1967, we didn’t need anyone to tell us to stay home. When spring had sprung, “shelter in place” was as close as our own back yards. Upon looking back, however, maybe we had too much time on our hands…

While staying home during this pandemic, when I’m not working on my computer, I have been reminiscing: online. I found a site that is just for people from my generation; Growing up in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. We reminisce about the music we listened to, places we frequented, toys we played with and a slew of things that we all remember from our childhoods. When we were children, we used our imagination more than today’s generations because we didn’t have cell phones, expensive toys and had little money to go anywhere. If we did go out, it was for window shopping or the drive-in movies. We had a treasure trove of things to do at home, so boredom was not an issue for us. 

The entertaining Facebook page has so many subjects to choose from that it is kind of hard for me to post one that hasn’t already been posted. But today, while thinking about spring coming, my thoughts turned to my dogs…which led me to think about…ticks. Then, I had a nostalgic thought of childhood summer days and how we spent them. Eureka! I found something original to post! 

So, I posted this:

OK Facebook-page-friends, I have one that hasn’t been posted. Our childhood in the sixties was ordinarily spent outdoors. Most of us had dogs. We played outdoors because we were banished from the inside of our mothers’ clean houses. I had a curious thought: Did any of you have the experience of getting ticks off your dog? I remember when I was a little girl, we had dogs, and of course, they would come home with big, nauseating, ticks hanging off them. My dad would heat up a safety pin with a match and gently scoot the needle back and forth under the tick (our dog let him do this). 9 out of 10 times, the tick would back up and pull its head out and my dad would retrieve it that way. He threw them off behind him, then went back inside. Once he was safely out of sight, we kids would get a hammer and splat them all over our mother’s cleanly swept carport. Yeah, I come from the old school. Shame the devil…I know you did this. Share your stories. 

Here were some of the replies. 

  • We caught lightning bugs and put them into jars, and then went to the attic to watch them light up. 
  • I remember drinking out of the water hose and not being afraid of germs.
  • My uncle used to unwrap a menthol cigarette, then spit on the tobacco and apply it to our bee stings. 
  • Does anyone remember getting the garden hose and spraying water into a bee’s nest and running for your life? 

They started off sweet and benign but soon made a wrong turn. Apparently, once someone realized the whole post started with splatting bloody ticks on carports, the replies turned gruesome. They continued:

  • Yeah! Loved seeing those ticks burst open with blood! My mother whooped me with a hickory stick…but it was worth it! 
  • My brother and I used to catch horny toads and smash them with rocks. Man did they stink!!
  • I used to do that to grasshoppers. It was so gross how all that green goo would ooze out.
  • My brother used to pull 7 legs off daddy long leg spiders just to watch them flop around with the one leg. He was so mean!
  • Hey, remember when you would ride your bike and the frog would fall out of your pocket onto the hot pavement or get stuck in the bicycle spokes? 

OK. Stop! I’m sorry I started this!

But, upon reflection, unfortunately, I do remember those things; mostly done by boys, of course. Some of us girls were tomboys. We climbed trees, caught lizards, or morbidly staring a little too long at roadkill, but we never hurt anything. Ever. 

What started out as a stroll down memory lane, caused me to reflect a little more. We complain about kids today and the violence that they watch on television, but our generation “entertained ourselves” with violence against bugs and amphibians in real-time! I recall my best friend and I would tie a string around the leg of a June bug and gleefully walk with it flying and buzzing happily above our heads. In truth, the poor thing was probably petrified and desperately trying to get away. Kind of takes the thunder out of it when you look through the eyes of grown-up reality. Mercifully, we all grew up to be good citizens.

Today, people who do the kind of things kids did back then are classified as potential serial killers. Which might explain why most serial killers are men; but I digress.

Oh hey, I’ve got to go. I just remembered something else. I think I’ll ask the folks on the Facebook group if they remember getting excited about the neighborhood dad’s getting together for a rat killing. Wait. Never mind. I don’t want to know. 

I’ll be glad when the shelter in place is over. It may not be good to have too much time on our hands.

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