Sleeping With Tarantulas

When I was a kid, we used to go to Mexico to fish. We would load up whatever vehicle we had and go to San Felipe, which I understand is now a good-sized city. But back then the streets were unpaved and the biggest building in the whole city was the Ice House, where people bought huge bricks of ice for their ice boxes.

We actually stayed at and launched the boat from Pete’s Place, which if I remember right, was about ten miles north of San Felipe. It consisted of a house, a small restaurant, and some concrete pads where people with motorhomes or trailers could hook up to water and electric. We never had anything like that when we went down there. It was usually a car, pulling a small boat. But we would rent one of the concrete slabs so we had water, and it would be our home for as long as we stayed, which sometimes was a couple of weeks.

Back then, no passport was necessary to cross the border and Mom used to tell me not to get too dark cause she couldn’t prove I was hers and they’d keep me. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m very white. I can get a sunburn from thinking about going out in the sun. And back then my hair was very blonde, in my young years, platinum.

The tide did a strange thing at Pete’s Place. When the tide was high, it was a hundred or feet or so from the little embankment that went up to the concrete slabs. Bear in mind that It’s been forty-five or so years since I’ve been there, and I never went as an adult, so these figures are through the eyes of a five, seven, or ten-year old. When the tide went out, it looked like it was a mile to the water, though I imagine it was closer to the length of a football field. That part of the sand was slanted ever so softly, so when the tide was in, I could walk out forever in the water and it was only up to my waist.

I loved the ocean, so one night I talked my mom into letting me take a sleeping bag down near the embankment and sleep. When the tide was out, it was dark and silent, and when it came in it made a soft shush-shush.  I slept soundly. In fact, I kicked off the sleeping bag sometime in the early morning, and when I woke, I was lobsterized. At least the front of me was.

When Pete saw me, he laughed, and asked how I got so red. I told him what happened and his eyes grew to the size of quarters. “The tarantulas live there,” he said and pointed to the embankment. I walked back down to where I’d slept and looked at the hill of sand and sure enough, it had small holes all over it.

Well, I never saw a tarantula there, not a single one, but I surely made a wide path around that area from that day forward.  And Pete’s story was confirmed by others who were there regularly. The thing is, everyone who went there, went to fish. No one was sunbathing, or reading books. They launched the boats at high tide, anchored them out in the deeper water and fished. They fished during the day, and sat up on the concrete slabs and talked and drank and partied. But no one ever went down between the embankment and the high tide line and just relaxed.

Pete’s Place was where I learned, When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do. If no one else is sleeping down there, maybe you should ask why.