An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Suburban landscape

Jon and I bought our house from a middle-aged single man who worked as a flight attendant for a major airline. He only spent two weeks a month in the house, so he left very little impact on anything. The hardwood floors were in perfect shape, and all the original molding had been preserved, but he decorated everything as if he were paying homage to the color of stomach bile. When I saw the color of the walls for the first time I was immediately reminded of the time in fourth grade when I threw up a ham sandwich on the school bus and the driver had to pour large flakes of saw dust on the puddle so it wouldn’t slosh around when she took a hard right.

The rumor was that the previous owner was a lonely gay man, and he didn’t get along with anyone on the block. He used to call Animal Control on the next-door neighbors any time he saw their cat in his yard, and once left a threatening voicemail that he was going to sue them from the emotional distress he had suffered at the hand of their cat’s poop. Another neighbor told us he used to party when he was in town and that we could probably attribute the towel in our sewer line to one of those raucous nights, because “who knows what happens when those crazy gays start drinking vodka.” I’ll tell you what happens! BEHAVIOR THAT DISRESPECTS THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE. Because crazy gay drunks? SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT THAN CRAZY STRAIGHT DRUNKS.

The yard was also very tidy, the grass green and cut as close as a military haircut, but he had lined the flower beds with giant concrete slabs that looked exactly like parking dividers. During our first summer in the house we tried to beautify the lawn, and the first thing we did was haul those slabs to the dump. But that was the extent of our collective gardening experience — taking things apart — and when we tried to plant a variety of bushes and flowers I accidentally destroyed most of the work the previous owner had done. While digging through the soil I kept finding walnuts buried several inches down, and after chucking a handful into the street I asked Jon, “Why would someone bury walnuts?” He hadn’t been paying attention, and once he turned around and saw me throwing things into the street he dropped his shovel and ran over to interrupt my pitching practice. Turns out those walnuts? They were tulip bulbs. Imported from Holland. Was one of those instances when Jon could feel confident that he had totally married up.

A couple years ago a new set of neighbors moved in next door, the taxidermist and his wife, they who once used a stuffed yak as a decorative gargoyle. As a gesture of hospitality the taxidermist offered to bring us a truck full of rocks he had found near his Death Shop in the mountains, and we used those rocks to decorate the uneven line between our two properties. On his side of the line he planted an assortment of plastic flowers, many of them very life-like, and two petrified tree stumps he had found on the side of the freeway. Within a couple months weeds had grown up through his artistic landscape and were thick enough to hide an advancing army and tall enough to shade the second story of their house.

A few weeks ago after learning that the taxidermist was moving out of state we hired a small landscaping company to rip out the line of rocks along the property line. The man in charge suggested we plant sod between the houses so that instead of two disparate plots of uneven soil we could have one rolling lawn, but that in order to do so we’d have to get the neighbor’s permission. So I cornered the taxidermist’s wife one afternoon because once, while we were making small talk on the sidewalk, she looked at her yard and then back at me while rolling her eyes as if to say SHHH, DON’T TELL ANYONE, BUT I HAVE PLASTIC FLOWERS IN MY YARD. She said that she wouldn’t mind, but since they had just got an offer on the house she didn’t know if she could give the go ahead. “What if the new owners really want the tree stumps?” she said laughing.

“You’ve got a point,” I said. “If I were paying that kind of money for a home I’d want the weeds thrown in, too.”

Within a couple days the landscaping company was ripping apart our lawn, digging up yards of ground cover I had planted incorrectly. One person was in charge of hauling out all the rocks, and while he was lifting up one of the tree stumps he stepped on a giant tarantula. Taran. Tula. While crushing it with his shovel another one crawled out from under a mass of weeds followed by two smaller tarantulas, perhaps its tarantula babies. We were destroying their lovely tarantula home where they had rested their wee tarantula heads.

Jon didn’t tell me about this until the day after it happened, which was incredibly smart on his part. If I had known about the tarantulas while the tarantulas were happening I would have gotten in the car and driven off the edge of the Earth. My guess is that the rocks the taxidermist brought down from the hills were carrying tarantula eggs, which is a little frightening because there are four other places in his yard where he deposited rocks from that same batch. And they are still there flanked by a decorative flourish of plastic hydrangeas.

  • cailey

    i’m proud of you heather. i might not have been able to go outside of the house for a week after finding out tarantulas were there at all. i definitely would not be able to walk barefoot. and you are getting rid of those other rocks, right? you really would hate having a tarantula rip your face off. eewww…

  • I cannot stop laughing over the concept that us gay people get together and drink vodka in order to sully the sanctity of marriage. I think that’s the funniest line you’ve ever written.

    But seriously…stop leaking the gay agenda. It’s bad for publicity.

  • large versions of one of my least favourite things in the world. Next to your house. Your dog. Your baby. I’m feeling very vomitous. Thank goodness they loved the plasticity so much they never traveled far… how did they miss having those THINGS living in their yard? Maybe he DID know and that’s why he never did anything to the weeds.

  • This one’s for you Heather:

  • Tarantulas?

    I think I would have become hysterical. Big hairy spiders crawling around in the yard…shudder.

  • JC

    mmmmmmmmmmm….spider babies. tarantulas aren’t that bad. it’s the brown recluse you gotta watch out for.

  • salmonday

    Was this connected to the forced remodeling of the drain line, or just something that you did seperately once you realized how cool romping big machines on your lawn could be?

    P.S. Have you apologized to Jon yet about the whole crayon thing?

  • I recently moved to the northwest and have discovered a family of “banana slugs” under the last step of my deck. They seriously look like giant ripe slimy bananas. Who knows how many times I’ve stomped on those things before discovering they were small shiny mammals.

    At least they won’t bite my face off. You know, like tarantula’s do.

  • Cyberdave

    OMG TARANTULAS!!! RIGHT IN SLC! AND I LIVE THERE TOO (new transplant)! OMG! I would’ve gotten in the car with you and driven off the ends of the earth! AAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

  • namedphoenix

    Holy crap. I think that being in California is too close to the tranatulas in your yard. You are going to get those other rocks removed, right? I thought trantulas only existed in like, other places. Apparently, they are supposed to be really smart and inquisitive creatures. I’ve never stayed around one long enough to ask them their thoughts on the world.

    My kindergarden teacher had a tank of tarantulas in the classroom. We were sitting and having reading circle one day when one of the mean boys had deftly removed one and put it on my head. I don’t know how my grandparents got be me to go back to school, ever.

  • I once threw up chicken noodle soup on the school office phone while calling my mom to tell her I was sick. They had to get a new phone.

    Plastic hydrangeas? That’s so wrong. Don’t tell me things like that.

  • cathbuzz

    I hate to tell you, namedphoenix, but I live in California (even NORTHERN CALIFORNIA) and I see tarantulas in my yard every summer. I even look forward to it. Actually, it’s tarantula season right now. I live just 2.5 hours from SF. It would take a tarantula a couple of weeks to walk there I’m guessing.

  • take them in the cover of night and deposit them in the yard of your least favorite neighbor. immediately.

  • eewww…i hate creepy crawlys too. especially spiders. eurgh *shudder*. time to whip out the bug spray–although the shovel works just as well.

  • Erin MJ

    Oh, Heather… you have such a gift for vividly recreating situations with your writing, but in this case forgive me for saying that is not a good thing!!! =-o

    I can’t even _imagine_ the ways in which I would freak out if even ONE tarantula showed up in ALL OF OREGON. When I was a little kid I actually had nightmares about the tarantulas from the pet shops getting out of their cages and coming to my house… *shudder*.

    So, suffice to say, I feel your pain. I really hope, for your sake and ours, that no more of those horrible creatures show up at your house! 😉

  • Thank goodness it’s cold enough up here to avoid furry little buggers like that :P. Just wait, one day, Leta will be playing in the back yard, put one in her hand and bring it over to you, in that completely innocent way children do and say “Mommy, look at my big spider!”

  • Anneleen

    My sympathies for your near-spider experience! Horrible creatures – usefull and all you like – but hideous and frightful. How loud was your scream when Jon told you about them?

  • yeah, pictures would be the frosting on the cake here! though my imagination’s doing a pretty good job thus far 😉

    isn’t it strange when you know a little about the people who lived in your house before you did? it’s like their ghost is still around in some cases.

    and i did feel quite a pang when i read about you throwing away perfectly good tulip bulbs. imported from holland! did you happen to get any in Amsterdam?

  • That’s really creepy. I think I’d talk to the neighbors about it and warn them that they might have tarantulas in their yard. Ugh, that’s so creepy, especially because tarantulas are poisionous.

  • Please, please, please … PULL EASE … Post pictures!

  • jes

    This is quite similar to my recent run-in, except I was not quite so close to home. And I was camping, which kind of makes one assume such run-ins will take place.

    But not all within two days, and not all life-threatening, and not all involving two deadly snakes and one deadly spider.

  • oh god! i jumped out of my chair just reading that. i would have been in the car with you pushing your foot to the floor on our way off the edge of the earth.

  • Urs

    Heather I want to thank you for your Alpha Mom story about Chuck. My mother, and I, have never owned pets. I’ve always wanted cats and finally got two furballs when I started dating my fiance. He’s had cats his entire life and he’s really taught me how to care for them. I’ve had some issues with them destryoing my clothes and shoes but I accept it because they’re animals. A year ago my mother got a dog and then 3 months later she adopted a second dog that was from New Orleans and was displaced from Hurricane Katrina. I’ve tried to warn her about the responsibilities that come with having animals because I knew it was very hard for me to adjust and I knew it would be the same for her. The other day I heard that she beat up her dog because he ate a pair of her shoes. I forwarded her the link of your Alpha Mom story so that she can see that I’m not the only one who thinks that beating up a dog is the only way of teaching it right and wrong. I hate the thought of animals being absued, and even though I know my mother isn’t a mean person it hurts me to think that she would hit a dog.

    As mush as I love animals… I wouldn’t think twice about squashing a tarantula! That’s the ickiest post ever.

  • Mack’sMom


    Marshall Road (16) on the south side of 169

  • 6degrees

    Thanks, Mack’sMom! I’ll have to go point and laugh next fall/ winter!!! 😉

  • belletoes

    Oh ma gah!!! I was about to lay down and nap with the baby, but I had to go and read about freakin’ TARANTULAS in Utah! Is nowhere safe anymore?
    I feel things crawling on me and am seeing things out of the corner of my eyes. FREAKING OUT! Thank God my little MoMoShanaynay (female version of Chuck) will save us from the bugs. She attacks anything, spiders, crabs, snakes etc… Heather, I can’t believe you just discovered Cesar! He is a God. I love him. Fantastic article on AlphaMom.

    You make me laugh, cry and make me proud everyday to be a mom and a girl. Thanks!

  • Amber

    Holy God, I am itchy now. I thought our wolf spiders were bad, but tarantulas? HELL naw. Just thinking about having those things close to my house is enough to make me weep.

    I was less upset about the snake that wrapped itself around our hot water heater (which is in a cabinet IN MY KITCHEN) than I am about your tarantulas.

  • Meg

    Dear God, there are tarantulas in Utah? What next? Scorpions in Nebraska? Well, I suppose they do have some fans there, but mostly with the old lead singer.

  • ryansmom

    HOLY SHIT- MacksMom- those spiders are nasty! I literally got the chills when I uploaded that site. Now that thing is the devil.

  • 6degrees

    Maybe a plastic dog with plastic pee would be appropriate to appear in the middle of the night…

  • As someone who runs shrieking from the shower after encountering little bits of black sock fuzz, tarantulas would have made me just drop dead right there. At least plastic flowers would be just lovely on my grave.

  • 6degrees

    Really? In Shakopee, Mack’sMom? I would think that real plants there would be affordable, no matter the cost… Hmmm… I’m curious which busy road you are talking about…

  • Ugh. Congratulations on giving us all a raging case of the Heebie Jeebies.

  • Mack’sMom

    Tiger Lamb Girl…the Camel Spider is WAY too much for me! Holy Crap! People!! Go to and look at the suckers! They’ll eat your dog!

    My favorite is the photo of the bite…

  • Kelly

    A HA HA HA… wee tarantula heads… edge of the Earth… you make me giggle.

  • Thanks for dishing out the creepy crawlies to the entire Internet. I hope you feel proud of yourself.


    Oh those gays, they sure know how to party.

  • Ew, ew, ew!

    I am seriously arachnaphobic these days and I can’t explain it, because I didn’t used to be. I realized it recently, after discovering a black widow outside of my son’s bedroom window.

    So even if I hadn’t known about the tarantula THAT DAY, I probably would still have wanted to drive off the edge of the world. Even reading about this is making my skin crawl!

    And, Lawyerish, I grew up in Marietta, GA. And I remember that when I was a kid and I read somewhere that scorpions sometimes hide in shoes….well! I was so completely freaked by that one, that it was WEEKS before I stopped checking my shoes before I put them on. And by “checking” I of course mean, “taking them outside to throw them as hard as I could against the driveway and then beating them with sticks besides.”

    But tarantulas! Holy fucking shit. Just ew.

  • bookworm

    My husband tells a story from before we met: He was out hunting one September, and it was 110 degrees out. They got done with the morning hunt and when they got back to camp, they found “hundreds” of tarantulas in the campsite, everywhere there was any shade – by the tent, water jugs, vehicles. Everywhere.

    He told me that story after he took me camping in the same area. We haven’t been back!

  • Tiggerlane:

    You GOTTA try Vodka over ice WITH caviar on Carr’s Table Water Crackers topped off with a small dollop of creme fraiche (sour cream). Not in that order. First the heavenly caviar chased by the ice cold vodka shot. It’s a truly orgasmic combination.

    (I previously thought I hated caviar until I tried this one New Year’s Eve….at a beach party with loads of friends….one of whom had a friend who’d flown in from Russia with the caviar…..ah memories….)

  • Smacky

    My mouth dropped when you mentioned the tarantulas. >__< Oy, that's horrid. Who cleaned up the splattered one?

  • Jabberwocky

    Oh Please, please, pretty please .. can you take some pictures for us of the plastic yard flowers and rocks? 🙂

  • but i really liked the plastic plants…..

  • oh, ya…


  • kerry

    HOLY F*CKING CRAP!!! if i found out there were tarantulas next door to me, i’d be out there with a bloody flame thrower! ICK ICK ICK! just the thought of it is making me want to be ill. *bleargh*!

    hope you don’t end up having problems with them.


  • Dude. And I thought I had problems cuz my neighbor left her flocked Christmas tree in the driveway for six months. Flocked Christmas trees are not so attractive once they mold. You have my condolences.

    (PS — Leta is adorable — thanks for all the pix.)

  • Talon

    To Shanparker:

    How about dozens of tornados with tarantulas whirling around in them?


  • This is the first and last time I read Dooce before bed. Thanks for the story I’m sure instead of dreams tonight of a dozen tornados trying to kill me I’ll have dreams of tarantulas.

  • Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew! I’m thinking of driving off the edge of the earth just reading that! GAH!

  • Talon

    All of a sudden, mid-michigan is not NEARLY far enough from your yard.



    Did ketty really mean this: ” If you drop a tarantula they will often burst (although you CAN super-glue them back together and they will usually survive – I would definitely advise you to keep an emergency tarantula glue kit nearby just in case.)”???

    You gotta be f***in’ kiddin’ me. You are gonna tell me someone HOLDS ONTO TARANTULAS AND GLUES THEM BACK TOGETHER?!?!?! I have to stop reading dooce while sipping vodka (thanks for the tip, TigerLambGirl.)

    Bursting? Yech. But effective.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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