Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing UP: The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

I am really not sure I can do this story justice. I do not think that I have the vocabulary or skill necessary to relate the sheer terror and absolute horror that my cousins, siblings and I experienced the summer of 1979. We were living in that quaint northern California town in our little family commune as I have previously described. We were free and happy. Life was idyllic in nearly every way that our young bodies and minds cared about. We played in the dirt, ran and skated in the streets with reckless abandon day after day. That is, until they came.

Crickets. Lots of them. So many that even extreme use of forced hyperbole will not make you see the extent to which we suffered. They loved dusk. It was their time. You need to understand something. To outsiders, California seems like a lovely place where the weather is a perfect 80 degrees all the time and everyone spends their time at the beach. Ok, let's get one thing straight. That is SoCal. The valley of NoCal is hot. Blisteringly, menacingly, uncomfortably hot. So, we children were often forced indoors during the worst part of the heat and let out again at dusk when it started to cool down to a nice manageable 95. But, they loved dusk too. As far as we could see, nothing but crickets. The sidewalks and driveways were relatively cool compared to the asphalt, so they congregated there like some evil assembly of devoted worshipers waiting for their master to arrive. Waiting for their master. Waiting for the children.

I can still hear the crunch of cricket bodies, large and small, give way under the weight of even the tiniest feet. We were not accustomed to shoes. I do not remember if we even owned any. Usually shoes were outgrown by the end of the school year and our folks just waited until fall to buy new ones. Crunch, crunch, crack. Those that did not immediately meet their demise jumped frantically in what I am sure was an attempt at attack in retaliation of their fallen. Smack, smack, sting. We could feel their tiny sharp bodies hitting our bare legs, some clinging to our clothes and skin in an endeavor to avoid the onslaught of children running for safer ground. Little Brother, the youngest and smallest of our gang, often received the worst of the pelting as the creatures jumped high enough to pepper his bare belly, chest and back. Sometimes one of the older kids would go back in a valiant attempt at heroism and carry the little man to safety. It was by sheer grit that we made it through that summer alive. We were Cowperthwaites and we were determined. Not even an invasion of the most menacing kind could keep us from a good pile of dirt.

Of course, if any of them read this, I am very sure they will not be sleeping tonight!

Quote of the Day: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. And also crickets." --Me


  1. Tent caterpillars in my part of the world. Finding them on clothes and in hair after coming inside was the worst!! Ugh!!!