There are firewood rounds sitting on my driveway arranged around the basketball hoop.
A tree leaned its way across my driveway in a winter windstorm and the inexperienced handyman cut all of the rounds at an angle, so they are devilish to split, but I’m making progress, if only to make basketball less treacherous now that Robin has grown large enough to play.
Lifting one onto the chopping block, I disturbed dozens of tiny shelled creatures who had made their home in the decaying wood at the bottom.
Sow bugs, these are called.
They’d be pillbugs, if they rolled that way. (or any number of other names)
Crustaceans, like lobsters and shrimp and such.
Woodlouse seems like a nasty name for a creature that come out of the wood looking so clean and does no harm in the world, really – mostly just helping already decaying things along their way.
One of them was the largest I’d ever seen, as big as my fingernail, bigger than the biggest watermelon seeds from my childhood memories of gargantuan Hempstead, Texas watermelons. In Texas I was told that like armadillos, they could carry leprosy. This is a canard, but there is some size at which crawling things go from almost cute to almost creepy, and this one edged toward creepy. She was large enough that I after I coaxed her onto my hand, I could feel her individual feet as she ran along the back of my finger and eventually to my arm. I flipped her over to see the gills on her undersides, the 14 wiggling legs, and what I think was the white marsupium where she would store her eggs – or could have been storing them yet.
In this picture you can see one shedding its skin – they do one half at a time, for some unknown reason.