The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 4 - 9/21/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Blinded by the thick blackness, I let my hand slide along a knotted corral pole, then nervously jerked it back as a wolf spider's sticky web tore and snapped against my fingertips. A surge of adrenaline forced sweat beads to jump right out of my hide. Danged sakes! I should have brought the flashlight, I thought, as I shuddered like a sweaty, old workhorse that had just skinned out of his feed harness. I felt like lying down in the manure so I could roll and kick and rid myself of that itchy, crawly hide.
Instead, though, I kept my sights set for the chicken coop, but continued my spider dance - uttering "heebie jeebie" sounds, shaking my arms, beating at my shirt, and slapping at my hair. Then, when I passed by the cow chute, I slid my backside along the rough boards until splinters threatened to draw blood.
A bit extreme? You bet! But, I hate spiders! Actually, on second thought, I don't really hate spiders, I'm just scared spitless of 'em. But, why is this true? I often ask myself.
I've spent my entire lifetime sharing space with spiders of all nonpoisonous makes and models. Cobwebs sway in the cool, damp drafts in nearly every room of my house. During hay season, field spiders cast their glittering fisherman nets across millions of square inches of freshly mowed grass stubble. They hang out in the barns and lofts and crisscross the tops of grain barrels. Many times, I've watched baby spiders shoot misty streamers into the wild blue yonder just to hitch a ride to new adventures. And, I once convinced myself to sit through the entire movie, ARACHNIPHOBIA, after which, my spider nightmares were MAGNIFIED.
When we were kids, my sisters and I would lope across the road to the nearby, old homestead cabin or slip into the house attic where we would excitedly dump ragged boxes of dress-up clothes. In the backs of our minds, we knew that huge, gross spiders lie in waiting for little girls, hiding in sticky, white cocoons among the old skirts and hats and high-heeled shoes. So, when the bravest girl amongst us unfolded the inevitable "playmate," we would shriek and stomp and jump up and down, sometimes smashing the big, ugly, hairy, red-skinned intruder to a greasy pulp, then we would run away for a while to catch our breath. Soon enough, though, we would nervously sneak back to the "bloody" scene and, once again, try to pretend that we were in a fairytale where kings and queens ruled and where handsome princes rode prancing white horses - a magical kingdom where there were no...SPIDERS!
Even today, on warm, mosquito-filled nights, I spend more than ample time poking my flashlight into the world of creepy spider faces...watching their silence...watching them watching me...waiting for unwary moths or gnats or skeeters to accidentally tickle their fishing line.
Then, Oooo-Eeee! Stand back! In a move as quick, vicious, and unbalanced as a grizzly bear ridin' the milk cow calf, the spider skates across his intricate cobweb, jerks the prey to attention, bites sharply and repeatedly, then rolls the still writhing victim into a tidy ball and hangs it out to dry. Whew! I'm thinking, this is definitely not Charlotte's Web...
...It was in early July 2000 that her lacy web first appeared in my kitchen window. The morning sunshine glinted in my rinse water, then danced across the surface of her silvery handiwork - a project that she had painstakenly anchored from the windowsill to the curtain and back to the glass milk jug. There, dead center in this dreamcatcher-styled web, was a copper-colored spider about the size of a No-see-em.
What a bitsy creature, I thought, as I instinctively jerked my hands out of the dishwater and stepped back from the sink. Wonder where she came from? I scratched at my neck, but feeling like a wimp, I leaned back over the skillet and continued scraping at the burned meat clinkers. However, I did not take my eye off the spider.
During the course of the day, her web was destroyed and I thought, well, that's that, as I wiped up the remnants of scattered webbing. But, the next morning, the spider and the web had returned, glistening in the sunlight and more glorious and perfect than the day before. This time, however, the little engineer had glued her home to a potato sack, a dishtowel, and the breadbox - a perfect trap for the previous night's pesky gnats.
Thereafter, every dawn, I watched for Bitsy and inevitably, she would turn up somewhere in the kitchen sporting a brand-new web site. I was very impressed with her desire to hang onto her territory, and I was equally charmed by her endless spirit, when at dusk each day, she faced the long task of rebuilding her home while the rest of the world around her slumbered on.
Life with Bitsy came and went, and I soon found that I could leave the house without scraping my back on a door jam, or swiping at my hair, or shaking from head to tail like a wet dog. I even warned husband Rudy to be especially careful not to wash Bitsy Spider down the drain, or pinch her from her web, or toss her out the window. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped him at the front door and rescued a tiny spider that was swinging perilously from the back of his cap.
"Poor Bitsy," I said, cupping her into my hand and frowning at his carelessness. "You've gotta be more careful, please!"
"Oh, for hell's sake," he answered. "That's not Bitsy. I haven't even been near the kitchen!"
...Bitsy wasn't in my kitchen this morning. I checked in every nook and cranny, high and low. No spiders, no webs, anywhere. I worried that we'd stepped on her, or set a fry pan on her, or rolled her up in the dishrag, or mixed her in with the dogs' food. You know, it's kind of sad. But, then I reminded myself that the weather is changing, the summer season is rolling over, and I now can only hope that the disappearance of brave little Bitsy is all part of her natural lifecycle. Imagine that. Me...missing a spider!
Photo credits: Cris Paravicini
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