Snakes, Spiders and Palmetto Bugs Growing up in perpetual summer. 

by Rodney DiGruttolo

Skeets’ curiosity about slithering reptiles led him to become a student of a well known, at least at the neighborhood level, serpent stalker. Bobby Dickenson was fearless when it came to pouncing upon, and capturing, slithering, scaly creatures.

One day Skeets asked, “Bobby, can I come along the next time you get a call to catch a snake?”

Bobby took ten, long seconds to think it over before he answered, “Okay.”

The next day, Bobby knocked on Skeets’ door. “Com’on, Mrs. Ledford says she wants me to get rid of a blacksnake under her porch.”

The Ledford family lived two doors down and Betty Ledford allowed that a monstrous black snake had claimed the crawlspace under their back porch as its personal hunting ground. She had commissioned Bobby to get rid of the creature.

“How we gonna catch it, are we gonna crawl under that porch?” Skeets asked.

“Scared?”  Bobby asked. He was busy dragging stuff out of a burlap sack and flashed a quick glance in Skeet’s direction. A World War II surplus flashlight, forked stick cut from a Myrtle Bush, and a second burlap sack, came out of the sack.

“Nah, I ain’t scared. Just never did this before. Like to know what to expect.”  Skeets hid his apprehension behind blustering bravado. “What you want me to tote?”

“This” Bobby said, and handed Skeets everything he had removed from the sack.

“That all?”

“Yeah, and hold the light steady. I’ll need free hands when we find him.” Bobby grumbled.

  Fully equipped, the intrepid pair wriggled under the porch. For about three minutes, they inched forward. Skeets swept the beam of the flashlight across the sandy soil ahead of them.

There was no sign of their quarry, but a net of gossamer spider webs glistened in the light beam all around them. Once or twice, scrabbling sounds drew their attention as something scurried past in the darkness. The flashlight, revealed nothing more interesting than a field mouse.

When they reached the far end of the porch, a dense array of spider webs blocked their path. Lurking squarely in the center of an intricately woven trap hung a fat, black spider. A brilliant red hourglass emblazoned its abdomen—a deadly, Black Widow.

“Whoa! Look at that!” Skeets whispered, as he played the light over the spider and her web.

Bobby was not only fearless concerning serpents. “Ain’t nuthin but an ole spider. Don’t get mean unless you get em under your shirt, then they bite, unless you squish em quick. About as much a nuisance as Palmetto Bugs.”  With that, Bobby brushed the web away with the forked stick and moved on.

Skeets knew, what Bobby called a Palmetto Bug was a monstrous roach only slightly smaller than a field mouse. He didn’t like them very much either. He slithered past the spider and exited the crawlspace right behind Bobby.Once back in the sunlight, they dusted off...

Read the rest of the story in Snakes, Spiders and Palmetto Bugs available at as an e-book or Print Edition.

Toys Remembered - The Kite

In Toys Remembered my story entitled The Kite appears beginning on page 44. It is a true story from July of 1956 and gives the reader an insight into the feeling and fun of childhood revisited. If you’ve ever built a kite or anything of value to you, experience the thrill of building and flying your own creation. Relive the exhilaration of 3 pals flying their kites together and witness the devastation when things go horribly wrong.

The Kite

Breezes that caress Sarasota are sometimes gentle – a breath of air that barely moves the palm fronds. Other times they stir the branches of live oaks, shake the tufted needles on tall pines, and cause the palms to sway in a seductive dance. No matter how the wind blows, it is a rare day when you cannot fly a kite. 
I was almost twelve-years-old and on a warm July day in 1956 I came across a fully intact cardboard cone of stout cotton cord on the trash heap at a construction site. A workman must have discarded the brand new spool by accident, but its finder’s keepers in the world of trash heaps, and I was the big winner. I had big plans for the string. A kite I had constructed using thin strips of salvaged wood, yesterday’s newspaper and glue formulated from cornstarch and flour, needed a kite string.  Early the next morning I joined two of my buddies at an open field, which was ideal for kite flying. Jimmy’s ready-made, store-bought Red Hawk Ultimate Flyer soared nearly thirty feet above us. The image of a red raptor glared down from on high.  Stan’s kite was skinned with the comic pages from Sunday’s paper. I carried my slightly over sized masterpiece gingerly, taking care not to puncture the paper skin with a twig, weed, or thistle. Unwinding a few feet of string, I launched my creation into the swirling wind. She danced overhead as I played out cord. As she leaped ten feet into the air I christened the paper sail, “Royal Eagle.”  The Eagle rose majestically, pulling harder on the string with each foot she climbed. In a few minutes, she sailed past the Red Hawk and headed for the clouds. I played out string until I could see the pasteboard cone among the remaining twists. The eagle soared majestically and Stan still struggled to get his kite airborne. 
I fastened Eagle’s string to a wooden spool, also a product of a trash heap, and abandoned the pasteboard cone.  With Eagle’s tether anchored to a sapling, I turned to aid Stan. We added a strip of yellow flowered cloth to the kite’s tail and his flying comic strip became airborne at last. It was a bit unstable, as it dived and fluttered on a wavering path. Finally, catching the wind the kite leaped skyward. Stan named the erratic sail “Gooney...”