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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bark Scorpion Girl

Striped Bark Scorpion
At the Ozark Natural Science Center, before I take students on our first hike together, I always ask the students to each tell me what they want to learn more about. Most of them either name the first animal that comes to mind (bears, snakes, or deer) or they flip through their field guide and read a heading to me, even if they don't know what it means and are not interested in it. One cool fall day last year I got a surprising answer, "I want to learn more about the Striped Bark Scorpions," said a little girl with black hair and wide wandering eyes.
"Bark Scorpions?" I mused. "I'm not even sure we have them around here..."
"Oh yes, they are here. They live under rocks during the day and then climb trees at night in search for food. They hunt insects and stuff. They are only, oh, about this big..." she showed me a little over an inch with her fingers. "They blend into the bark, especially because it is night, so when you put your hand on a tree they sting you. But they won't kill you, its like a bee sting."
"Wow, I think you might need to teach me about them! Obviously you know quite a bit more about them than I do."
"I like to study them." Her gaze lowered and she seemed slightly embarrassed. Other students were snickering and rolling their eyes at her. At her age, being smart is NOT cool.
Throughout the rest of our time together, the girl continued to teach me things and I taught her what she didn't already know. She was full of questions and answers both. The bark scorpion did not come back up since I felt stupid not knowing anything about them.
This past week, while walking with fellow Ozark Natural Science Center teachers, during staff trailing, we flipped over a rock in the glade and found a stripped bark scorpion. Immediately I thought of the bark scorpion girl. As I asked teacher naturalist more about this species, I realized the girl had been right about everything she had told me, from its size to its habits.
"I knew a guy who picked them up!" someone said.
"I dare you to pick it up, Caleb," said Adam.
Caleb smiled.
"I will rub nose burn on my nose if you pick up the scorpion." Adam dared. (Nose burn is a plain little plant or weed that grows in Ozark glades. People who touch it get a stingy or burning sensation that rarely last more than 20 minutes. However, Adam found it not to be painful when he lost this bet and rubbed it on his nose.)
Carefully, Caleb crept up behind the scorpion and then quickly plucked it off the ground. The scorpion curled its legs in and froze in the giant's grip. While taking a picture of the only Ozark scorpion I have ever seen, I wished the bark scorpion girl was there to see it too.
Caleb Wardlaw Holding a bark scorpion

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