Of Mice (and Spiders) and Men

When I returned home from the store yesterday, I saw my husband descending a ladder from the attic. I cringed and ran the other direction. We have had problems with rats scurrying and scratching above our heads at night and disturbing our precious, well-earned sleep. If not for the daring exploits of Dad, the rat hunter, alas, we would all need to accept their presence and endeavor to live in peace, sleep or no sleep. I hate rats. I am horribly afraid of their pointy teeth; their smelly fur; and, worst of all, those hideous, bald, rope-like tails, just waiting to ensare me. I am afraid of them because of a childhood experience. I’ll tell you about that event in the next post. Suffice it to say, for now, that I am grateful I have a man in the house, a man who protects me from beasts.

Speaking of men and women and fear, I have heard numerous stories lately from people who have walked through spider webs and shivered in disgust as the stickiness clung to their skin and they frantically brushed it away. A man dropping his daughter off at preschool told of becoming tangled in a spider web while carrying his child on his shoulders in their back yard. Everyone within hearing made a face and responded with, “ooh and yuck”. Not I. Most women I know are afraid of spiders, and while most men are not, they still think it’s icky and creepy to walk through a spider web. I don’t. I think it feels kind of interesting. I touch spider webs and gaze at spider webs, and say hello to spiders — even black widows — right before I kill them because I don’t want my children bitten by a black widow. So, after hearing all these stories, I felt brave and a tad arrogant. Let’s not mention the way I scream like a two-year-old if a rat is within yards of me.

Speaking of spider webs. I was out walking my dog today, and we came across an amazing spider who had built a huge web from one side of the bridge that spans the drainage area to the other. Jack always has to cross that bridge from the horse trail to the green belt. It’s his MO. He began his crossing about two feet ahead of me, and I found myself face to face with a large orange spider. He was substantial, like a heavy box with legs, rather than delicate as some spider are. My nose was half an inch from him, but he did not move. I pulled hard on Jack, not because I was afraid but because I didn’t want to break this magnificent work of art. Jack sat down and looked at me like I was an idiot, but he waited while I  studied the creature and his creation, noting the perfect spacing between the rings of the web and the amazing strength of those few long strands that held everything together and attached it to the bridge. I marveled at the tenacity of the spider, knowing that if I broke his home, he would just start again. I found where each long strand connected to the wood and then slowly ducked down between them, leaving the web intact. I turned and bid farewell to the spider, and I’m sure he nodded a “thank you” to me.

And we were off into the wet grass on the other side. Jack sniffed at holes dug by gophers and rabbits, and I investigated small “rugs” of webs extending lightly over clumps of dirt on the ground. They blanketed the hillside making it look ethereal, ghost-like. I put my finger on one of the webs, expecting it to be soft and springy. To my surpise, I felt almost nothing as the web practically disolved under my touch. I resolved to research this phenomonon when we arrived back home. What kind of spider lives in these delicate homes on the ground? What I discovered is that there are nearly 2,000 species of ground spider. Most of them have barrell-shaped bodies, as opposed to the box shape of the spider I saw on the bridge. None of them is dangerous to humans. I want to see one of the spiders that lives on the hillside in the greenbelt, but they mostly come out at night, which is also when the coyotes are out. I think I will leave it to my imagination and just enjoy the webs by daylight. No need to disturb a coyote in a place that could be scary at night. So, in conclusion, and once and for all, spiders are wondrous; rats are gross. Tune in to the next post for more on rats.

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