When my mother wept in Texas

When I was a child, every summer my father would take the family Buick, my mother and me across the country, from California to the Southeast, to visit family, hers in Alabama, his in Carolina. He did all the driving, he loved it, and in fact he had wanted to drive a long-haul truck for a living, but Mama wouldn’t allow this, wanting him at home with us. So he loved his annual summer road-trip, half of it in Texas. Once, in late summer, we reached the center of the state just as the tarantulas were migrating, crossing Highway 80 in the thousands. We did not know then that these were all males, marching in search of a mate. It was, for them, a race toward death, on the way as roadkill or prey, or in finding a breeding female, who would either reject and eat them, or mate with them, and then eat them as an afterthought, to nourish her newly fertilized eggs. Mama would sternly instruct my father to slow down, and try to avoid the large and lovely brown creatures; but, of course, we crushed dozens, and we could hear the sound, through the open windows, in those days before air conditioning. We would hear a crunch, and my mother would cry, weeping across Texas.

Randel McCraw Helms
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