Bears he’ll face, but not the mantis


An outdoor writer who has faced black bears in the wilds of Canada armed with nothing but a Polaroid camera, but has admitted publicly, in print, that he fears praying mantises and spiders.

Yeah, that’s me.

Floyd Noel and I were outside the schoolhouse one day at recess when we discovered a big praying mantis on a bush. That’s when I must have admitted privately to him that I couldn’t stand to look at the creatures; didn’t want to be around them.

I did not know at the time that Floyd – normally a nice guy — had a cruel, mischievous streak in him.

One day I was in the hallway at Dear Old South Portsmouth High, where the lockers lined one wall.

I was talking with two rather attractive girls. I had on my wide Western belt and blue jeans (we called them overalls in those days, though they did not fit that description) that fit me rather snugly (I usually had to wear my big brother’s hand me downs, which were embarrassingly baggy).

I believe I was making quite a tough guy impression on the girls.

Suddenly I heard someone calling from down at the end of the hall: “Oh, Sammy-y-y-y.”

It was Floyd. He was holding something in his hand; his arm held high.

As he drew closer at a fast pace I saw that he had captured a praying mantis. The thing was at least five inches long. He made motions that indicated he was going to fling it on me.

I ran, screaming, “Throw it down! Throw it out!”

I heard the two girls (also cruel-minded) laughing as Floyd chased me down the stairs and out the door.


One time, when my two sons were young, I took them on a fishing/camping trip up on Kinniconick Creek. We wade-fished the riffles and shallows through the hot afternoon. We caught and released several 12- to 14-inch smallmouth, and managed to land enough fat bluegill to clean and fry up for our supper.

As dusk settled in over the valley, we pitched our tent on the bank of the stream. It was one of those little army-type pup tents, the kind held up by two poles and four pegs and which had no floor.

We built the fire up and as the stars came out we sat around enjoying it. I told them a story I made up of how, one time in this very spot, a huge, hairy Big Foot creature came out of the forest across the stream and attacked some campers, sending two of them to the emergency room.

Finally we stretched out our bedrolls in the tent and turned in for the night.

I was sleeping on my back when I awoke in the middle of the night with the most peculiar feeling that something was watching me. I fumbled around and found the flashlight and flicked it on.

Holy cow! There was a big praying mantis sitting on my chest!

I leaped straight up and staggered away, swatting at my chest with the flashlight.

I was standing 20 yards away when I heard Kendall exclaim, “Kelly! Kelly, wake up! You see those stars up there in the sky?”

“Well, yes. That’s where stars usually are, up in the sky,” answered a groggy Kelly. “Go back to sleep.”

“But …but, I thought we went to sleep in a tent.”


Spiders. It’s just that I can’t stand to crush them. They are so complicated, with all those eyes and legs and indescribable mouth parts.

It doesn’t help matters that I’ve been cursed with a stronger sense of empathy than most human beings.

I was in my basement alcove, at my computer, typing, deadline looming, when a spider the size of a quarter fell from overhead and landed with a plop

on a newspaper lying on my desk. He seemed content just to sit there and give me the evil eye.

My wife had retired early but I went upstairs to her bedroom and found her still awake, watching TV.

“Can you come downstairs and do something about this spider?” I asked.

She arose, dutifully, and, shaking her head from side to side, came down to my desk, pulled off her house shoe, and, just like Garfield does with his rolled up newspaper …SPLAT!



Janus writes books for women’s liberation;

His wife types up the scripts from his dictation.

— Laurence Perrine (1915-?)

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G. Sam Piatt

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected].

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