Let me start off by declaring how much I really do love living in Florida. Now that I've lived in the state for nearly 13 years, it has become my home. The beach, Disney World, the absence of snow - I love it here. I complained for years about the heat, about the sad state of the Department of Children & Families, and then about the heat some more, but I'm used to it now. I tend to get chill bumps and wear sweaters if the temperature is below 85 degrees, so I really can't see myself moving too far north. Besides, I wouldn't get the chance to tell you all about my wonderful encounters with things that come from nature (the kind of nature that exists only in Florida or in the Southeastern U.S., generally).
*Did you know that Florida homebuilders will build an entire house around a spider? A large spider? A large brown spider that will have babies inside your bathroom light switch plate during the very first shower you ever take in your new home? And did you also know that when you walk out of your tub without your contacts in and see black dots covering three entire bathroom walls that those black dots are not just floaters in your eyes. They are spiders. Baby spiders. They have just hatched from the egg sac that is behind your bathroom light switch plate. This also means that the Mama Spider is behind your bathroom light switch plate. She is dead (as you will discover once you remove the switchplate) but she is the size of your fist. Even a grown man (aka Your Father) is too squeamish to pull the dead spider out so you must call the Florida Homebuilder to come back and remove the spider.
*Did you know that armadillos will scare the bejeezus out of you when they come charging in your direction at full-speed in the middle of the night? Especially if they can sense that you've never encountered one of their kind before. It's a trick they like to play on young women who go outside to smoke on their back porches and don't turn on the porch light (Floridians do anything they can to not attract more bugs). So if you hear a rustling noise deep in the trees behind your house, you can almost be positive that a gang of roughneck armadillos are playing Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine which one of them will be the lucky sonofagun to flash its ugly little face from the darkness of the woods and make a human squeal in disgust, throw down her cigarette, and run inside shaking with fear. I can hear my local armadillo gang giggling right now. They must have caught my neighbor by surprise.
*Did you know that scorpions thrive in Florida? Neither did I! And did you know that they can also climb walls. Neither did I! That's just freaky...
*Did you know that rat snakes can grow to be nearly 8 feet long!?!? No, not really. They only look like they're 8 feet long after they've found a buddy and made a pact to terrorize a single family (such as mine) by climbing the screen door as a pair. This buddy-system enables the rat snakes to double in size and scare the crap out of the poor girl (uh...me in particular) who makes the unfortunate discovery of this rat snake stalking incident. Just because a grown man (aka Your Father) has spent a good portion of his career protecting the President and hiding in bunkers to avoid chemical attacks in the Middle East does not mean that he has the balls to protect his family from these snakes. In fact, a grown man just might ask his wife to take care of these troublemakers by giving her a pair of gardening shears and instructing her on how to cut off their heads. Their babies will soon be born to carry on the family's tradition of domestic terrorism.
*Did you know that roaches can fly? It's disgusting so we won't talk about it.
*Did you know that baby coral snakes get a thrill out of slithering up to barefoot pregnant women who naively believe they are relatively safe while in the comfort of their own homes? Maybe not necessarily inside the home, but inside the enclosed back porch. Apparently, enclosed is not an appropriate way to describe this back porch. Anyway, once the barefoot pregnant woman has noticed this venomous snake it is not really worth it for her to ask her younger (and, obviously, not pregnant) brother to find a stick, pick up the coral snake with the stick, and toss it gently into the woods. Let it be known that the younger brother will return from his stick-hunting duties with a twig that appears to be 3-inches long. The pregnant woman will have to dispose of the coral snake herself.
There are also black and red grasshoppers that grow to be the size of your shoe, and banana spiders as big as your face that can whip up a web the length of a truck in nearly 48.2 seconds flat, and squirrels covered in such grotesque tumors that they look like they've been foraging for walnuts and sticking them up their asses for safekeeping. And don't get me started on that swamp rat on Amelia Island (here's a hint: it's almost the size of a terrier) ...