Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Hate Spiders

Because of the wet weather this summer, I haven't done much gardening, and the weeds have taken over our side garden. It's this tall, spindly, grassy crap that comes from the forest behind the house:

As you can see from the matted down area in the center, something's been using it as a bed. And believe me, it smelled like it too. There was some serious animal funk in there.

It was a gorgeous, sunny weekend, so I figured I'd yank these pests out in about an hour. No such luck. I was simply not prepared for how “wild” the area had gone. For every fistful of weed, there were dozens of spiders running from their webs. I've never seen so many in one small garden. Little brown ones, big funnel weavers, golden garden spiders with their zipper-like webs. It was soooo gross.

To say, “I'm afraid of spiders” is not really accurate.

I'm certainly not “afraid” old eight-legs is going to corner me in a dark alley and bust a cap in my ass. Or chew off my arm.

It's the creepy factor. You never know where they are at any given moment. In the house, in the grass, in my car.

I think it started when I was a kid. I grew up in a house that was close to 150 years old. We were never without our eight-legged friends. They came with the house. Some of the basement spiders had ancestors that fought in the Civil War.

I was told the basement was blasted from solid rock. Like a dungeon. It consisted of a hallway that opened into a 20 by 15 foot rock-walled room, and 2 coal bins. The “hallway” was more of a deep trough, because the walls only rose about 4 feet on either side. Between the top of this trough and the ceiling, was a long, dark crawlspace of rock. It makes me shudder just to think about it.

Anyway, when my father ran a cable from the basement up to my room for a TV, he made the hole too big. About an inch in diameter, at least. This effectively made my bedroom the underground railroad for spiders.

Before I went to sleep each night, I had a ritual where I checked every corner, under the bed, behind the dresser, and next to the radiator for my little friends. They were always there. It didn't matter if the room was clear when I went to bed, because there'd be more in the morning. At least most of them were your “standard” cellar spiders. Smallish, stick-legged and skinny. Not like the ones I have here.

Now that I live in the country, the woods are my backyard. Spiders are expected. For instance, I expect them in the basement and in the attic. Maybe even the occasional spider on the floor, like a harbinger of Spring. But it freaks me out in the middle of the night when I walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, and I'm eye-to-eyes with Charlotte, hanging from the ceiling vent.

My worst encounter was about eight years ago. We had a heat wave in April, so anything living in the walls of the house was looking for a way out, fast.

Here's the scenario: It's 10:00 o'clock at night, I went to check on my sleeping daughter. There was just enough light that I could see where I was going, and make out the dark outline of kitty toys on the floor.

Catnip mousie, catnip pillow, birdie, another mousie and a fuzzy toy ball. Or was it? I don't remember a ball there before, and this one looked a little strange. There were spokes. Strings? Feathers? Something sticking out of it? At least that's what my subconscious was mulling over as I went merrily down the hall.

After making sure my daughter was fast asleep, I started back down the hall. Suddenly those minute, passing thoughts came rushing to the front of my brain, like The Robot from Lost in Space, “Danger, Will Robinson! ..... NOT a fuzzy ball!”.

I stopped about 2 feet from it in the semi-dark, and tried to get my eyes to focus on it. Yep. Definitely not a kitty toy.

Leaned over and hit the light switch. My brain did somersaults trying to understand what my eyes were seeing: “It's shaped like a spider, fuzzy with eight legs, but bigger than any spider I've ever seen, except on Animal Planet. Wait, we don't have tarantulas in Pennsylvania! Did a neighbor's pet get loose from it's terrarium? Maybe the previous owner had one and it's been living in the walls?”

Then I thought, “I need to capture it, because my husband won't believe me”.

I must've lost my mind.

I grabbed a shoe and smacked it. It did not go down without a fight. It took several beatings before it finally stopped moving.

The exterminator told me it was probably a Wolf Spider. I looked it up online. Biggest eight-legged beastie we have in the Northeast. Hogna Carolinensis.

Oh, and they lie. They say it's somewhere between one and one-half inches long. What they don't tell you is that's body length. Add on those meaty legs and we're talking bloody huge.

Thankfully, I've only seen a few of these. Here's a photo of a smaller one I found on the side of the house. Oh and by all means, please click on the image to get the close up, in all it's spidery glory:

I should note that the vent thingy above it is approximately 6 inches wide. And the ivy leaves are around 3-4 inches wide. So basically, we're talking about a spider about 4 inches across.

Did I mention how much I really hate spiders?