Date: August 14, 2017 01:42AM
> They lived in a cabin without any kind of
> utilities, and an outdoor privy. My father worked
> at a local sawmill, and my mother, an RN by
> training, was bored out of her mind. I remember
> her telling a story about driving "into town" -
> Merced, I guess, and there was a "herd" of
> tarantulas crossing the road. I have never seen
> them travel in herds, but that was her story.
> She drove over them, put the car in reverse,
> backed over more of them, and them kept doing it
> until there weren't many survivors.
> That's SERIOUS boredom, in my book. After
> scrimping and saving for about a year, they moved
> to a suburb of Los Angeles, where I was born, and
> thence to San Diego.
> To hear my mother tell it, Merced was more or less
> the armpit of the West, at least back then.
Merced's not a great deal better or worse than a whole lot of other San Joaquin Valley towns. If you lived in the S.J. Valley, probably whatever town you lived in was the worst. If I personally had to name the single worst town in the valley, I would probably choose Parlier, Dinuba, or Livingston, or anywhere in Kern County. The tiny towns are the very worst in my opinion. Probably because of dust bowl migrants landing there, many inexpensive dwellings without plumbing or electricity were around in the valley as late as the 40's or maybe even early 50's.
I'm not disputing the tarantula story in any way. It's the sort of thing that would have embedded itself in your mom's memory. I can say that the Merced area isn't especially overrun with tarantulas. Foothill areas of the Sierra Nevada are worse. I saw them travel in herds in the areas surrounding the summer camp I attended as a kid in the hills. Nowhere in California compares to Hawaii, where I spent the first six years or so of my life, in terms of tarantulas.
The entire valley is quite dismal. My relatives who live there do so because they own dairies, and it's a good location for dairies. Even they live basically in the foothills, though some of their dairies are on the valley floor.