Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Most Important Thing I Have Learned

The most useful thing I've learned since coming to Australia is probably the importance of always having a stick with you when you go to the outhouse.

This weekend I was reminded of that timeless lesson, and of a photo album I created about six years ago from the construction of the outhouse at The Shed.  It explains how to build your own outhouse in just 83 easy steps.  The incident that reminded me also happened to involve this very dunny.

It had been about a month since I last made it up to The Shed.  This is May, and for some reason, this year Western Australia has decided to hold Winter in May.  That means that it was dark by the time I got up here.  Dark, wet and cold enough to warrant bringing in a bunch of firewood with which to warm up The Shed.  But by the time I arrived, I also had an urgent need to, uh, meditate upon the porcelain.

So I picked up a flashlight and a handy stick and headed out to the dunny.  Approaching it with caution, I opened the door and poked the stick inside.  It caught on something crackly.  The stick caught hold in a large, stiff web.  A messy, disorganized web that practically filled the entire space inside the dunny.  Though the responsible party was not to be seen, I knew.  Redback.

I closed the door, willed my bowels to postpone the evening's scheduled activity and went back inside the shed to get a fire going and something to eat.

The next morning I returned to the dunny with a bigger stick and a can of spray.  And an even more urgent "need."  I knocked down all the webs I could see and put down some surface spray along the walls.  When I came to the crevice under the sink I believed to be concealing the redback, I gave it a good shot and stood back.  Right on cue, about 10 seconds later an enormous, fully mature redback came scrabbling out and began the writhing and lashing that I've seen hundreds of times in my life. American Black Widows and Australian Redbacks share a lot of DNA and a lot of similar behaviors.

Since using a dunny puts one in a rather vulnerable, immobilized position, I prefer to wait until there are no deadly poisonous creatures within inches of my person.  I therefore waited another hour or so before returning to find the venomous spider well and truly dead.

The wisdom of always bringing a stick with you to the dunny once again proved its worth.  No, there weren't any more spiders, but due in part to the repeated delays, my visit created a temporary plumbing malfunction.  A good, solid stick is useful for sorting out that, too.

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