Scorpion Hunting

Scorpion hunting was without a doubt one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. While living and working at the El Paso Natural Gas pumping station near Arlington, Arizona, I lived across the street from a man who’d been with EPNG for many years. He was in his late forties or early fifties—I think; I’m guessing—and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. His name was Bill Carney.

Bill hunted scorpions and sold them to folks who used them to make bolo ties, paper weights, and other assorted jewelry and such. He tinkered with making some of those things himself, but mostly just sold the bugs to a buyer.

The short version of how it was done—the hunting—was this: We went at night—usually around midnight—and the best place to find scorpions was in wide, flat, dry washes. We’d use a black-light flashlight to spot the scorpions, and this was one of the coolest aspects of the whole thing; the scorpions glow neon green when the black-light shines on them. We would sometimes come across massive beds of the devilish looking critters—usually in a dry wash, and when our lights hit them it was like a neon green city had suddenly appeared on the desert floor.

The next step was to pick up the scorpions, and for that we used what I called taco tweezers. You know; the utensil you use to turn, or pick up, tacos and other foods when you’re cooking. Once you picked up the bug, you dropped it into your jug of ordinary rubbing alcohol. The jug was a one gallon Clorox bottle, with the front part of the top of it cut away, leaving the bottom two-thirds of the jug and the handle. That gave you a big target to drop the wiggling, angry scorpions into.

The alcohol served two purposes; one it stunned the critter; and two, it preserved it. The little ones would be still the moment they hit the alcohol, but some of the big ones—and there were some giants every now and then—would scrabble at the sides of the plastic jug, for a minute or so, trying to get out. I’d keep shining my light on the jug every few seconds until the bug would succumb to the alcohol. The scorpions eventually died, but their bodies remained soft and intact.

Another interesting aspect of the hunt were rattle snakes and sidewinders; neither of which we wanted to come into contact with in the dark desert, but once in awhile did. We wore leggings to protect our legs from the knees down, and of course leather boots. The leggings were made of aluminum, for lightness and coolness. I did have a few run-ins with snakes, but thankfully they were small snakes. Only one struck at me, and at first I didn’t know what it was. I heard this clink, clink, clink, down around my leg, and when I shined the black light on the snake, I could see the silhouette of it as it lunged at my shin. I gave a kick at it, it slithered away into the darkness, and I continued to hunt for scorpions.

Bill paid me ten cents apiece for the scorpions I caught, and there were a few times when I caught over a thousand in one night. A hundred bucks was mighty good money in 1970, and came in mighty handy for a young guy with a $93 a month car payment. (You can find out more about the car in my story, Hot-Diggity Hot Rods.)

I’ve got another story about Bill Carney, too, but I’ll write that one somewhere on down the road.

3 Comments »

  1. Percilla Newberry said

    Ugh . . .scorpions and snakes, NO thank you!

  2. Gary Williams said

    I bet Bill caught a million of those things.

    • I’ll bet you’re right about that! I got several thousand, and I only went a few times. He used to do it a lot. It is amazing how many of them are out there!

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