Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Horror Story (true)

Let me introduce you to one of Joburg's creepier residents. The King Cricket, I believe originally a native of New Zealand that snuck into the country in a consignment of building sand, made itself at home and multiplied, greatly. It first reared its nodding little head in numbers in a suburb called Parktown, hence it's local name, the Parktown Prawn. This guy, the first I've seen now for some years, I found yesterday drowned in our swimming pool, a much more appealing discovery than some of the places P.P's have cropped up in days gone by.


In our previous house, we suffered a plague of them. They appeared climbing up curtains, grinding along your pillow, in every corner of every room, and worst of all, the telltale brown whiskers - if you were lucky - waved at you from under the rim of the toilet, warning you not to take that particular seat at that time. The shreiks and squeals they generated were quite out of proportion to their size, though their size, for an insect, is enormous - a bit bigger than how they appear on this page. The thought of their heavy, spiney bodies near your hair or neck or children was too awful to contemplate and the rasping military sound they made as they marched across the carpet could wake me from the deepest sleep to save my family from the beast.

A delightful trait it has when you try to corner or capture it, as soon as it becomes aware of your intentions, is to leap lumpily about, usually in your general direction and squirt a stream of foul-smelling black liquid from its rear end. The only way to catch it is to creep up from behind and grab one of its back legs - we had a special pair of long 'Prawn Tongs' for this purpose - which it somehow seemed oblivious to as you carried it gingerly to the loo and made triply sure it was well and truly flushed away - with a dose of Harpic for good measure.

The good news is, that just when we and all of Joburg were reaching hysteria about the Prawn problem, along came the Hadeda Ibises, flying in like avenging angels from the Eastern Cape. They found the P.P's delectable and gobbled and gobbled until now - a hapless prawn in the swimming pool is an oddity and becomes the subject of some detached sketching and reminiscing. Thank you dear big birds, your 4.30am siren call is forgiven.

18 comments:

Charlene Brown said...

These drawings are fantastic... right down to their dreadful little shadows! I was going to ask you to draw a Hadeda Ibis real quick, but then followed your link, and there he was, complete with a lovely story.

moreidlethoughts said...

I grew up with these guys and, when we lived in NZ, I was the "weta removal person."
Your sketches are wonderful!

snoringdogstudio said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKK! How horrifying! Horrifying. Wonderful watercolor sketches, which I can only look at for a second. Those insects combine all the horrific, terrifying aspects of creepy crawlers - not only hideous, prolific, mobile, but able to squirt icky stuff.

Cathy Gatland said...

Thanks Charlene - I need to draw more hadedas, as homage and to improve on that rather bad rendition!

Oh Dinah, what a nasty duty, did you have tongs to pick them up with too? Thanks for the visit!

Snoringdog... I do apologise, the fact that I could sit and stare at it to draw shows that I've come a long way!

Teresa said...

Ick!

Drawings wonderful.

Commentary informative.

Subject gross.

:-)

Carol King said...

I almost had to click right off your post as soon as I saw those horrid creatures. Thank god for the Ibises. About 20 years ago I saw a waterbug in my apartment. I sat on the stoop until my husband came home.

Completely skeeved at those horrible PPs, but once again amazed that you managed to capture them so, um, beautifully.

africantapestry said...

You're right...truly a horror story...but wonderfully sketched!!
Ronelle

A Brush with Color said...

Oooooooh, man! Hahahaaaa--great job on these creepy little guys. I had a cricket inside my house once and I could hear it loud and incessant the whole day long--I looked EVERYWHERE for the darned thing, and couldn't find it, and finally, exhausted and frustrated, I plopped down on a couch and still heard it. I glanced up and on the ceiling, I saw a little icky leg sticking out of a vent--it was in the air conditioning unit!!! How it got in there I'll never know, but it was disgusting. You made yours sound quite horrid, but the sketches are fabulous!

moreidlethoughts said...

I was going to tell you about a boy at school, but all your readers would pass out. (Like the boy did.He put a weta in my desk and I simply returned it.Out cold, he was.)
No tongs; just fingers.

Art with Liz said...

I love hadedas! Heroes for saving you from those horrid beasts! And they were seriously awful huge red insects which you have sketched with incredible accuracy!

RHCarpenter said...

Great drawings of these icky things!! I'm sure they're fine out in the wild but the thought of sitting on one on the toilet is just tooo creepy!!!

Felicity said...

The wetas sound horrible but your sketches are really beautiful, not creepy at all! I love the shadows and the details are super! I find cockroaches far worse than spiders so I'm sure in real life I'd be terrified of these things, they look enormous!

Marie Theron said...

Yeh for the Hadeda, Cathy! My hubby wrote a children's book about a hadeda which is going into print soon! Your sketches are delightful, shadows and all!

travelingsuep said...

What an interesting post. I didn't expect to learn something when I clicked here. Fab drawings of the PP!!!

laura said...

Ugh. You have my sympathies: I am a fellow sufferer of a cricket infestation, in my case a horrible-looking thing called a camelback cricket--they're huge and jump right at you! I had to walk around the house with a broom--a broom's length being as close as I would get to them.
What a wonderful solution to your cricket problem: it's positively biblical!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Good lord! What a brilliant description (verbally and pictorially) of a mighty invader. Glad to hear they've become snacks for the Ibis but that some remain. Without the remnants, we'd never have heard their tale! I wonder how we look to them?

Cathy Gatland said...

I don't know if anyone's seen the S.African movie District 9... the aliens in that were based on the Parktown Prawn and the hysteria and prejudice they engender!

Cathy said...

I'm so so so glad I've come to live in Pretoria now Hadeda Ibises have eaten these horrible insects!!!! I think I would have died of a heart attack more than once!!!!! Thanks to your story, I'll look at Hadeda Ibises with a kinder eye...