Colored Rock Map of Texas at I-20 in Pecos, Click for Travel Guide

Pecos Enterprise


Archive 62
Archive 74
Pecos Country History
Archive 87
1987 Tornado Photos
Rodeo Photos 88
Archive 95
Archive 96
Archive 97
News Photos 1997
Rodeo Photos 97
Archive 98
News Photos 1998
Rodeo Photos 98
Parade Photos 98
Archive 99
Photos 99

Area Newspapers


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Living off the Land

June 29, 1999

Cantaloupe harvest time pushed back

Staff Writer

PECOS, June 19, 1999 -- Melon lovers will have to wait until after the West of the Pecos Rodeo to get their fill of Pecos Sweet cantaloupes.

The harvest is later than in recent harvest seasons because black plastic that warms the ground and speeds maturity was not used on the beds this year.

Randy Taylor, who is the largest cantaloupe grower in the area, said that the black plastic caused the melons to get too hot in last summer's prolonged heat wave, lowering the quality.

Clay Taylor said that he expects the sweet melons to start coming in to the Pecos Cantaloupe Shed on the Balmorhea Highway sometime after July 4.

"The crop looks good," Taylor said. "Acreage is down because some growers have quit."

Hail that damaged 1,250 acres of Taylor cantaloupes and onions about five or six weeks ago didn't hurt the cantaloupe yield much, Taylor said.

And onions keep flowing into the sheds daily. Taylor said they are about to finish up with the crop that was planted last fall and winter, and will take a break of about a week before starting on the transplants.

"The onion crop is good," he said.

Both onions and cantaloupes are processed, packaged and shipped from sheds at the Balmorhea Highway location. Pecos Cantaloupe also operates an onion shed on North Willow Street.

Workman to supervise weevil eradication

PECOS, June 19, 1999 -- Michael Workman is the field unit supervisor for the Pecos District of the El Paso/Trans Pecos Eradication Zone.

The Pecos High School alumnus recently received his B.S. degree in industrial technology from Sul Ross State University.

Gidgette Whitfield was appointed field clerk for the Pecos office.

Izelda Cassiano has been appointed as FUS in Tornillo.

Tornillo is serving as zone headquarters for the 15 county boll weevil eradication zone, approved by area cotton growers earlier this year.

"We are pleased to have such a well qualified employee base in the EP/TP eradication zone," said Program Director Osama El-Lissy.

"Seasoned professionals have been placed in key positions throughout the zone ensuring the EP/TP eradication zone will commence their diapause program with a very good depth of knowledge," added El-Lissy. "We encourage growers to visit the local offices and meet the staff," El-Lissy said.

District Supervisor Larry Rodgers will oversee the entire zone previously serving with the Foundation in the South Texas/Winter Garden Boll Weevil Eradication Zone as field unit supervisor.

The EP/TP eradication zone consists of approximately 60,000 acres in Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler

Rains fall in right spot to help Red Bluff Lake

Staff Writer

PECOS, June 19, 1999 -- Red Bluff Lake got a badly-needed infusion of water this past week, as heavy rains in northern Reeves, Loving and Culberson counties and southern Eddy County New Mexico lifted the lake's level by a third.

"We got about 20,000 acre/feet in the lake," Red Bluff General Manager Jim Ed Miller said Saturday. "The rains just happened to fall in the right spot for us."

Flash flood warnings were issued last Tuesday for northern Reeves and Culberson counties, and much of that water ended up in the lake, located 40 miles northwest of Pecos. Brush and lakeside dirt roads normally out of the water at this time of year were partially covered by the lake, while boaters and jet skiers had a little more area to move around in thanks to the strong storms, as the mercury soared to 110 degrees.

Other water from the rains flowed into Screwbean Draw, just south of Red Bluff Dam. Water was still flowing over the low-water crossing on Saturday, four days after the rains.

Heavy snows at the end of 1997 in northern New Mexico and around the Roswell area had allowed extra water releases into Red Bluff, which pushed the lake's level to nearly 100,000 acre/feet prior to the beginning of the water release season in the Spring of 1998.

But little rain fell either in New Mexico or in the Red Bluff watershed during 1998, and as a result, the Red Bluff Water Power Control District board set 1999's water allocations at 25,000 acre/feet in February, down 37 percent from the 40,000 acre/feet allotted the previous year.

At the time the allocation was made, board member Lloyd Goodrich said the lake had 70,756 acre/feet of water, and due to water losses downriver, Miller said at the time the allotment was made it takes about a 50,000 acre/feet release to deliver the 25,000 acre/feet to farms downstream.

Goodrich said releases downstream to farmers in Reeves, Loving, Ward and Pecos counties had to be cut back to keep the lake's level at no less than 20,000 acre/feet. "We've had it as low as 13,600, but when you do that the core gets low and the dam cracks," said Goodrich.

Tarantulas' size, reputation subjects for exaggeration

By Rex D. Friesen, Ph.D.
Extension Agent-IPM
Pecos, Reeves, and
Loving Counties
Since I have been discussing spiders in past articles, no such discussion would be complete without talking about the tarantula, since nearly everyone in West Texas has seen one or has a "Tarantula story" to tell. Tarantulas are familiar sights on the highways, in vacant lots, pastures, and occasionally in garages and back yards during some summer months.

As you recall, the two most dangerous spider venoms are those of the brown recluse and black widow. When people ask if tarantulas are poisonous, my answer is usually "yes, but...." The truth of the matter is that all spiders are poisonous-the primary differences are in the types of venom they have and the amount they inject.

Tarantulas also have venom, but it is not of a type that is normally very dangerous to humans unless the person is allergic to it. Most accounts that I am aware of compare a tarantula bite to that of a bee sting, but I cannot verify this personally, and do not plan on doing it, either.

The fame of the tarantula comes from 1) their impressive size and 2) their hairiness. The bodies of local tarantulas typically measure about 1 1/2 inches long, or so, with a leg span of about 4-5 inches across. Before you come in and tell me of the "monster" you have seen that was much bigger than that, catch it and measure it yourself-it may save you a trip!

While our species are the largest spiders North of the Rio Grande, the leg span of some Central and South American and African species have been measured at up to nearly a foot across. Those spiders feed on insects, small birds, mammals and reptiles! While many foreign species are arboreal -- that is, they prefer to live almost entirely or entirely in trees -- our species are terrestrial and prefer to live on the ground. Terrestrial species are actually quite fragile and may die from injuries due to only a short fall.

Tarantulas feed on a variety of prey-beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, scorpions, small lizards, etc., just about whatever is small enough for them to subdue.

As a note, all spiders, including tarantulas, can only ingest a liquid diet. In addition to drinking the body fluids of their prey (called the haemolymph), they also inject enzymes into the prey's body to liquefy the internal muscles and organs so that they can drink them as well. Although tarantulas will turn their prey into a small pile of parts and pieces, they are actually eating only the dissolved tissues.

According to a recent work on the subject, there are 14 different species of tarantulas in Texas, and you basically have to be a professional to tell them apart. Most of them range in color from a medium brown to nearly black, and of course, are very hairy. The really colorful ones you see in pet stores or on nature programs usually come from Mexico or some other foreign country.

Some tarantulas you see may have "bald spots" on their abdomens, but this is normal because these hairs are only loosely attached by design. Although the bald spots may be due simply to the wear and tear of old age, it may also be due to their defensive behavior where they use their legs to kick up these loosely-attached "urticating", or, "irritating" hairs onto an enemy when threatened or provoked. The urticating hairs may cause rashes or other discomfort if gotten on the skin or in the eyes. If provoked, tarantulas typically try to flee or may rear up on their hind legs and try to scare you or whatever away. In such cases, they may also bite if given the opportunity.

Texas tarantulas typically inhabit semi-open grassland and desert areas, and dig their own burrows or make use of abandoned animal burrows, rocks, logs, etc. to hide in or under during the heat of the day. Surprisingly (to me anyway), tarantulas do spin a "web" of sorts-they may cover the ground surrounding their hiding place with a thin blanket of silk which helps alert them when prey wanders over

Tarantulas have relatively poor vision and hunt primarily by detecting vibrations from movement close to them. Tarantulas typically move quite slowly and deliberately, but are capable of surprising bursts of speed when lunging at their prey (if you have never seen one feed in captivity, you are missing something!). The tarantulas that most people see are wandering on highways or side-roads early to mid-morning or early evening during some of the summer months. Those that are wandering about are males that are assumed to be looking for females, although this explanation for the wandering has never actually been confirmed.

Female tarantulas will lay from 100 to 1,000 eggs in an egg sac that she guards within her burrow. After hatching, the spiderlings leave the nest in a few days. It is suspected that mortality of the young spiders is very high once they leave the mother's burrow, as many types of invertebrate and vertebrate predators feed on spiders, e.g., other spiders, wasps, lizards, birds, etc.

One of the most impressive predators of tarantulas is the large, dark blue wasp with bright orange wings that you may see flying across a highway in front of your car or commonly foraging for nectar on mesquite or salt cedar blooms out in the country. This wasp is the "tarantula hawk", Pesis sp. They attack the tarantula and sting it on the underside of the spider when it rears up in defense. The wasp then drags the paralyzed spider back to a pre-dug burrow, deposits the tarantula, and lays an egg on it. After closing the burrow, the egg of the tarantula hawk hatches and the larva feeds and completes its development on the alive but motionless spider, eventually killing it. The larva pupates and later emerges as an adult wasp.

Tarantulas are often kept as "pets", and are commonly sold as such. I have personally allowed tarantulas to crawl on my hands or arm in years past, but I am now much more hesitant-why tempt fate?

People may say of their tarantula, "this one is safe to's tame". Before taking them up on their offer stop and ask yourself, "how do you tame a predator that has a brain the size of a BB"? Maybe it truly is safe, but also remember a tarantula is a creature that 1) scares easily, and 2) often has food "on its mind"-biting is its response in either case. Tarantulas in a terrarium make fascinating creatures to observe and study, but handling them is not encouraged.

In captivity, adult female tarantulas are reported as commonly living 20 or more years. Males are much shorter lived, usually not more than a year or two passed adulthood-more commonly only several months. If you are planning on purchasing a tarantula, you may want to specify a female for this reason.

If you are considering keeping a tarantula in captivity, there is a lot more detailed information available than I am presenting in this article to help you ensure the health and happiness of your spider. In general, give your spider space, something to hide under (such as an open tin can on its side), food (such as a cricket every couple of days or so), and water (a water dish is essential), and avoid placing items in the cage that the spider could injure itself on; e.g., cactus-they may add to the aesthetic beauty of your terrarium, but are not a good idea.

Finally, as for the "folklore" that tarantulas can predict rain, I have not been able to find resources, formal studies, or anything else to verify or refute this. To qualify as an "folklore", at least a few people must have observed it (you would think)-I've certainly heard it said more than once. Tarantulas certainly appear to be more common just before a rain! So, you can conduct your own study-when you see tarantulas out and about, make a mental note and see if it rains or not and solve the question once and for all!

Strange-looking bug in arachnid family

By Rex D. Friesen, Ph.D.
Extension Agent-IPM
Pecos, Reeves, and
Loving Counties

Some call it a spider, some a scorpion, but most don't know what to call it. Solpugids, also known as wind scorpions, sun scorpions, sun spiders, or wind spiders, are certainly one of the "Top 5" most common animals people call me about or bring in to my office to identify.

I personally prefer the name "solpugid" because the other names may lead to confusion as to their true identity, thus eliminating the need to clarify that they really are neither a spider nor a scorpion. Calls regarding solpugids usually begin some time in the spring and continue pretty much through the summer.

What exactly is a solpugid? It has features that make it look like a cross between a scorpion and a spider. It is grouped with the arachnids (the same group as spiders, ticks, scorpions, and vinegaroons), but does not appear to be closely related to any of them.

There are reportedly more than 120 described species, with 26 of them being found in Texas. Like most arthropods, it takes an expert to tell the species apart. Their color is usually tan to gray-brown and they are quite hairy. Females are indistinguishable from males.

The size of solpugids varies, but most I have seen are an inch long or less, not counting the legs and pedipalps ("feelers"). The largest one I have seen/caught is just shy of two inches long, which is a large specimen. Adding legs and pedipalps, they may span three inches or more.

Solpugids have eight legs, but glancing at them you would probably count ten-the front pair are actually not legs, but sensory "pedipalps" used to taste and smell. I have also seen them use the front pedipalps to "walk up" a pane of glass! The first pair of true legs are long and thin and are also used as "feelers"--walking and running are performed on the last three pairs of legs. On the underside of each of the last pair of legs solpugids have an interesting set of five T-shaped racquet organs that are also sensory in function.

The general body shape and color resemble a scorpion except that it does not have pincers or a tail. It does have a pair of very ferocious-looking jaws in front that when people see them they naturally think "this thing could be dangerous"!

Despite their appearance, solpugids are not dangerous to humans. Although they look ferocious and can bite aggressively (if you poke them with a pencil or small stick they will latch on to it without hesitation), they do not possess venom glands so supposedly the worst you'll get is a strong pinch -- I have not personally verified this.

They are nocturnal creatures, usually hiding during the day under stones, wood, etc., and coming out at twilight or later to search for insect prey. They are impressive burrowers, using their jaws and pedipalps like a small backhoe and bull dozer to move dirt and surprisingly large pebbles with ease.

Solpugids do look ferocious, and to other small insects and spiders they are indeed! They literally tear their prey apart with those large jaws that work like two side-by-side pliers, ripping and mashing their prey apart, removing the juices, and then leaving a small wad of parts behind as proof of their meal. Just as spiders are only capable of digesting a liquid diet, Solpugids also are strictly liquid feeders--you would just never guess it from their 7ppearance.

Surprisingly, not an awful lot is known about their biology. Females may lay from 50-200 "BB" sized eggs in a burrow she has constructed. She guards them until they hatch, which takes about two weeks or so. She cares for the young, protecting them and capturing prey for them to feed on. Solpugids do poorly in captivity and even experts have not figured out how to rear them from eggs, which is probably why so little is known about them.

In captivity, Solpugids typically quit feeding soon after capture and eventually die. The longest I have ever personally kept one alive was about one month.

Although I have found them both indoors and outdoors, solpugids' natural habitat is outside. I have most often seen them scurrying around on the ground or on walls around porch lights at night to catch insects that come in to the lights. They run very fast and they usually prefer to flee than to fight.

I have heard many stories about solpugids being found in bedrooms, on beds, in bathtubs, in the kitchen, etc., but I have yet to hear of anyone actually being bitten by one. You are probably most likely to encounter them when you switch on a light at night or find them in the morning trapped in a bath tub that they can't get out of.

Other than giving you a brief scare when finding one in your house, they are rarely more than an occasional nuisance. The traditional "stomp and scoop" is the recommended in-door control method for these individuals. However, if for some reason they seem to be making more frequent appearances in your home, a combination of habitat modification such as removing their hiding places in your yard (stones, bricks, wood piles, "junk", etc.) in addition to making sure your windows and doors seal tightly and any holes in screens are repaired, and spraying ought to take care of them.

When treating with insecticides, consider spraying around the outside foundation of your house and inside along the baseboards with insecticides labeled for spiders and or scorpions. Before treating, always read the label carefully. My office has a short information sheet on solpugids available if you should desire one.

I also have specimens available for viewing (if lucky, I will have a live one), so come on by and take a look! The Extension Office is at 100 East Division street, Fort Stockton.

Search Entire Site:

Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.

Copyright 1999 by Pecos Enterprise