My husband, Mr. Outdoors, loves spiders. All throughout our marriage and raising our kids he forbade any of us from killing house spiders. “They’re good luck,” he’d say. “They kill bugs. Leave them be.” And for the most part, we have complied. I don’t really mind spiders. Those that make webs are really impressive. Spider webs are beautiful, fascinating works of art, really. The way they appear out of nowhere in the morning, the dew glistening on them in the sunlight is downright magical.
In our Home home, we live very close to Lake Erie where there are large lake spiders. But, again, they hang out on webs and are very busy catching mosquitos and midges. They are needed and appreciated.
The spiders that really creep me out are those that roam around, the “hunters.”
A few weeks ago, on a warm autumn day, my daughter Fauna and I got to the farm and excitedly got our swimsuits on for a dip in the pool. We retracted the pool cover and prepared to jump in. But wait … what was that around the edges of the pool? “Holy crap, they’re spiders!” Fauna screamed. “Ewwwww!”
There, lining the sides of the pool and – I am not lying here – walking ON TOP OF the water and SWIMMING in the water, were about a dozen huge, muzzy black spiders. I immediately called The Sherriff for help. He knows everything about everything and is afraid of nothing. Or so I thought. “Yeah,” he replied to my pleas for help. “I don’t do spiders. They creep me out.” (What?!) “I’ll send someone over to help.” It made me think of that scene from Indiana Jones when Harrison Ford says, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” We all, it seems, have our week spots.
As Fauna and I cowered in the corner, The Sherriff’s strapping young son came over and patiently scooped up the spiders and squished them with his big cowboy boots. “Yeah, we get these time of year,” he explained. “They come up from the fields looking for the warmth of the pool at night.” That image grossed me out even more. I pictured legions of spiders marching towards our house, invading at night while we naively slept inside. “Thanks for the sleepless nights ahead,” I scoffed.
Soon, all the arachnids were gone, and Fauna and I jumped in and enjoyed our swim. The next morning, some spiders were back, so I went and put on my big girl underpants, swallowed hard and channeled The Junior Sherriff, scooping and squashing those bastards like it was my job. I was quite proud of myself. “I mean, I’m a sometimey farm girl,” I told myself. “I got this.”
The following week, I came to the farm alone on another hot, Indian Summer day. “I can’t wait to jump in that pool,” I said to the dog as we drove in. I didn’t give the spiders from the previous week a second thought. First I had to clear off the pool deck, so I grabbed the leaf blower and started cleaning leaves and debris off the pool cover and around the patio. “Oh darn, it looks like we left the pool rafts out from last week,” I said, still chatting with the dog. I turned the leaf blower towards the stack of rafts and pool noodles in the corner. What happened next was like a scene from a horror movie.
The spiders were back. And they had multiplied … big time. Dozens and dozens of black, muzzy, humongous spiders skittered all. Over. The pool deck. It was like special effects from Stephen King movie, like they were CGI animation. They seemed to just. Keep. Coming. Everywhere. An otherworldly scream came out of my mouth that I don’t remember ever hearing before. The dog took off, clearly creeped out by the spiders, too. Or my screaming. Or both.
“Oh God! Oh Lord! Arghhhhh! Eeeeep!” I tried to squash some of them, but they outnumbered me so much, I just couldn’t keep up. “Go away! Stop! Ewwwwww!” I was totally losing it, becoming more and more unglued by the second.
Pretty soon Mr. Outdoors showed up. He’d been walking the property and heard my screams in spite of his ear buds. “What the hell is going on?” he yelled as he approached, eyeing the dog that was still cowering around the corner of the house. “There are spiders EVERYWHERE. Do something!” I screamed tearfully. “And don’t even start with that ‘they’re good luck’ bullshit.”
I retreated to the water. As I tread water and monitored as Mr. Outdoors dutifully killed the intruding army of arachnids, I realized that Mr. Outdoors and I have a history with big ass spiders. He and I visited Belize years ago and came across an enormous spider web that had been built outside our room while we were out for dinner. As I gazed up at it in shock and awe, he called my attention to another impressive sight. “You think that’s big, check this out,” he chuckled. There, just next to my foot was an agitated tarantula the size of my hand that, when my husband leaned down to pet it (yes, PET IT), reared back on its hind legs and hissed at him. Hissed. At him. Like an angry cat. Another time, way back on our honeymoon, a crazy Australian tour guide pointed out a very, very large spider on its web in the rain forest. “This spidah is so beeg, it eats birds,” he explained. “Wow, Igor (yes, that was his actual name), what’s the name of that spider?” I asked. “Well, mate, that’d be a bird eatin’ spidah.” I chuckled, thinking, “Well, of course that’s not its real name, but that’s pretty funny, mate.” Turns out, old Igor wasn’t bullshitting. That was the spider’s actual name. A bird-eating spider.
Which brings me back to our farm spiders. After a little research, I discovered that our pool spiders are field wolf spiders. They do, indeed, travel in from the fields at the end of the summer to warm themselves in in the pool water at night. And God bless them, it is a nice pool with warm, soothing water. So, perhaps I should get a sense of humor about them. Instead of annihilating them on sight, next time someone sees a field wolf spider in our pool and says, “What is that spider doing in your pool?!” I will re-use that old joke about a fly in the soup, take a deep breath and blithely reply, “Why, he’s doing the backstroke, silly.”
But still … ewe.