Itsy Bitsy Spider

I have moderate beliefs when it comes to nature and animals and our place in the economy of nature. I think we should be respectful of animals, not use them for experimentation or exploitation. I eat meat and I will wear fur, under certain conditions. I believe in our place, as a species, in the “circle of life” and in the animal kingdom. I think it is not just okay to hunt, fish and trap, but that it’s important that we hunt, fish and trap to carry out our role in managing populations of wild animals for their benefit and ours. Overpopulation in animals causes animals to die far worse deaths from starvation and disease than a carefully placed bullet ever will. We should only hunt, fish or trap what we can personally use and in as humane a manner as possible. I abhor poaching and hunting solely for the bragging rights of killing a specimen of some certain species, to have “been there and done that” and so we can put its stuffed carcass in a room of our house. We are, as humans, after all, natural predators. We were designed, as indicated by our evolution, our teeth, our digestive systems, etc., to be omnivores. But, like bears, who are omnivores, with the exception of the polar bear, we are built to hunt. Our eyes give us away. Predators have eyes on the front of their face with keen vision primarily to the front. Prey animals have eyes positioned on the side of their face, with a much wider range of view, so they can see us coming. My point; I believe in killing things to eat, and, if necessary, in self-defense.

Let’s talk about self-defense. I had a harrowing experience today, a couple, actually. I am not one of those girls who shriek and scream at the sight of bug or spider. Nor am I one of those girls that has to have a man come squish the bug or spider. I am perfectly capable of squishing bugs and spiders all by myself. Really big bugs and spiders require the use of a shoe, the bigger and hairier the bug or spider, the taller the wedge on the shoe, for added distance and a better WHAM factor. Small bugs and spiders, I have been known, on occasion, to squish with my bare hands. Then wash, them, of course.

I do not mind spiders, or bugs, in their world. They are not welcome in mine. To define “my world”; it is where I am and the area surrounding or enclosing me. So, my house. My tent, if I am camping. My sleeping bag if I am camping without a tent. Bugs, spiders, and, well, reptiles, and bears, simply do not belong in any of these areas. Off limits. My world.
I remember when I was a Cub Scout den mother a very long time ago. My Cub Scout has long since become an Eagle Scout and will soon be in his first super-senior year of college. The Cub Scouts were meeting at my house and one of the other moms had arrived to retrieve her child. You would think she would’ve been one of those “scared of spiders” type; frosted, tinted, coiffed hair, lots and lots of makeup, even by my standards, miniskirts year round and not really miniskirt ready thighs, peep toe shoes, always pedicured toes and fake nails, yet she didn’t have a dime to keep her car running or to buy adequate outdoor gear for her kids. My hair and nails were always a mess, but we had awesome outdoor gear! I digress. There was a spider. She commented in a matter of fact tone of voice and I swooped in for the kill. She was appalled at my action. “Why didn’t you just put it outside? You didn’t have to kill it!”

True. I didn’t have to kill it. But that’s what I’d always seen done, since I was a little kid. Everyone around me always killed spiders that dared to enter their home. And some outdoors, too. For a while thereafter, if I saw a spider in the house, I’d look at it for a moment and consider the situation. But then my daughter usually came along and demanded it be dead, and I’d kill it so she could sleep in her bed and not mine. She really hated spiders. Still does.

Sometime thereafter, a friend and her husband came over for a visit. We sat on the front porch and enjoyed a nice, balmy evening chat with some desserts. I’d met her husband before, but I didn’t know him well. I knew he didn’t work much, was sort of underemployed, but I never really knew the story, if there was one. That night I learned that he had been bitten in the finger by a brown recluse spider. He ended up hospitalized and it was quite an ordeal. As a result of this spider attack, he had permanent nerve damage in his hand, limiting his sense of feeling and his ability to perform many jobs. From that point on, spiders in my house were doomed to a swift and certain death. I was not even going to go get my field guide to spiders to try to identify it first, just WHAM! Dead.

This morning, I made my way to the bathroom to take my shower, a morning ritual that I find both tedious and rejuvenating. Perched on the wall above the bathroom mirror was a grayish brown spider of average size, like I’d imagine Charlotte from E. B. White’s children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web”, one of my all-time favorite books. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Wells read that book to us, a chapter each day after lunch. Well, for this particular Charlotte-like spider, I’d probably choose a shoe with a two inch wedge heel as my assassin’s tool. I didn’t kill it, though. I let it live. I considered moving it outside, like the Cub Scout’s mom suggested, and I have an excellent method for so doing. You need two items to safely remove a spider to the outdoors; a glass and a piece of paper. This works especially well if the spider is on the ceiling. You quickly place the glass over the spider, to clarify, the opening of the glass over the spider, you don’t squish the spider with the bottom of the glass. Got it? When spiders startle, they drop. With the glass over them, they drop off the wall and into the glass. Now you slide the paper between the wall and the glass so it acts as a lid. I usually place an additional barrier over the paper once I’ve removed it from the wall, depending on the hee-bee-jee-bee factor of the spider. The trick is getting the spider out of the glass once outdoors. They don’t always fling well. And the direction of the wind can be problematic. I have flung and flung and flung and still had a spider in my glass. If you ever drive by my house and see a glass on the lawn, be careful, there may be a spider inside. I’m not one to usually leave barware on my lawn, otherwise!

I took my shower with the spider on the wall just outside the curtain. I did make several glances overhead to be sure the spider wasn’t headed my way, but he, or she, never materialized. When I got out of the shower, the spider was gone. Just gone. And believe you me, I did a thorough search!

Now, to add to the drama a little; there has been a daddy long legs spider in the corner over the doorway in this same bathroom for a couple of days. I don’t kill daddy long legs unless they get in my hair. Yes. This has happened. I don’t know the scientific validity of this fact, but once upon a time, the woman that owned the daycare center my children went to for many years told me, or us, that daddy long legs spiders can’t bite you because they have a tiny, tiny, tiny mouth. They just hunt other spiders. So, I try to leave daddy long leg spiders alone and let them do their thing, then I don’t have spider guts all over the bottom of my shoes and I can pretend to be all “kinder and gentler”. Upon the disappearance of the brownish gray Charlotte spider, I had to wonder if the daddy long legs was well fed this morning.

I walked out of the bathroom to get my hair dryer, and upon my return, another spider. This one was outside the bathroom right over the door. It was one of those hairy little black ones with a red but and white polka dots on its legs. One of those freaky kind that seem to be watching you, sizing you up, and actually moves to face you as you pass by, or under it. I found myself crouching to the far side of the doorway and very quickly leaping back into the bathroom. I just knew THIS spider was going to drop or leap or jump on me! When I exited the bathroom, I did so in the same manner. The spider was still there and actually stood up on its back legs and waved its tiny little front legs at me. Ugh! This is not the type of spider you move outdoors with a glass and a piece of paper or smash with a shoe. They jump! This is one where, if I were in the right part of the house, my son’s preferred method of spider killing seems more suitable; knock it to the floor and ignite the bug spray with a lighter as you spray it. Like a bug spray fire bomb. Very dangerous. Do not try this at home. I grounded him for that. Even though he was 21 years old at the time. But it did kill the spider quite dead.

Itsy bitsy spider with a bad attitude!
Itsy bitsy spider with a bad attitude!

When I came back to the bathroom to curl my hair, the spider was gone. Or was he? Nope, he wasn’t, and I saw him. Sneaky little bastard, he DID drop. He was on the floor waiting to leap onto my bare feet as I passed. I leaped into the bathroom and kept a nervous eye on the floor behind me as I curled my hair. When I left the bathroom, again, he was still there, waving at me. Ugh. If the carpet weren’t white and he wasn’t likely to jump four feet straight up into the air, I’d smash him with something. But, clever bastard, was kind of in a corner, making aim and accuracy with a big, clunky wedge-heeled shoe kind of tricky.

I came back to the bathroom and he’d made a very rapid advance for such a tiny spider! He was now all the way across the bathroom and up on the wall, next to the mirror and over the toilet. If he walked, and that is a great big IF, it would be, like, miles in spider distance, from where I last saw him. I think he jumped. Or flew! I left the bathroom, not out of fear, I’m a pretty brave girl, I forgot something. Really, I did. When I came back, two seconds later, the spider was gone! Or was he? Nope! I found him! Ensnared in Mr. Daddy Long Leg’s web, clear across the bathroom!

So, nature took care of me today. And I didn’t have to kill anything. Why the change of heart? Why so kind and gentle with three spiders in “my world”? This all following an article I read in the local newspaper that my mom left on the kitchen table for me. This Saturday evening I’m planning on going to a book release party. A neighbor lady is an author and has just published a collection of short stories. I’ve never met her before, nor have I read any of her materials. The article in the newspaper was about this author, Jean Ryan, and described some of her stories from her book, “Survival Skills”. She is an animal activist and a nature lover and writes a lot about experiences people have in personal growth and their relationship with nature. Sounds really cool, very interesting, I’m looking forward to it. One of the stories mentioned though, was about a woman who was at home, alone, waiting for her husband to return. He was some emergency service provider and there was a hurricane, or something like that. In his absence, though, the woman in the story performed her own rescue, that of a spider from the sink drain. And I’m meeting this author? A spider activist? Me, the spider assassin? Because I will be face to face and eye to eye with this spider-activist/author, who wrote this compassionate essay about an arachnid, I was compelled to spare the lives of not one, not two, but three arachnids in one tiny bathroom in one short morning. I set aside my natural support and belief in killing, in self-defense, when necessary, to save face when meeting this author. Or, at least, that was my intent. Until I returned to the bathroom this afternoon.

Nature took care of me today!
Nature took care of me today!

I looked. I had to look. I just knew I’d see a fat, happy, satiated daddy long legs in his web, up in the corner, over the door. Nope. Not there. For some reason, my eyes were drawn to the floor. There he was. Dead. His long legs all curled up. I could almost hear the scary movie soundtrack begin as I turned, ever so slowly, scanning the walls, the ceiling. And there it was! The little, black, hairy bastard spider. In my shower! I could hear him laughing, manically, I swear it! I grabbed my mother’s favorite spider assassination tool, an old wooden yardstick with the faded, stenciled name of a long defunct hardware store still visible on it. I tried to pin the spider in the corner with the yardstick, I knew I’d have to clean the guts off the ceiling. But he dropped before the stick was within two feet of him. Bastard. He fell adeptly, like a Marine paratrooper to the very corner of the tile where it would be very difficult to mash him with my weapon. I smacked the stick on the bathtub right next to him. He jumped a full foot up, then landed in the tub. I happened to have my gym shoes on, so I leapt, I mean I totally hurdled over the side of the tub. I missed landing on him by a fraction of an inch because he jumped again. Ah, but his spidey senses finally failed him. With a stomp, he was but a black spot on the bottom of the bathtub. Mission accomplished. I laughed, maniacally!

So, now, on Saturday, when I meet the spider activist/author, it will be with a bit of guilt. I killed a spider, in cold blood. It was in self-defense, clearly, but a spider did die. Two. Three, maybe. Perhaps if I’d killed the hairy bastard first, the others would still be alive. But, in the end, I am going to sleep better tonight knowing that there are no bugs in my realm!