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I was cool with everything but the spiders

  • February 21, 2009

(click on photos to enlarge)

There’s some land in rural Iowa that’s been in my family for as long as I can remember. It’s been handed down from my grandparents to my dad and now to my brother Georgie. He and his wife Stefanie live there in a house they built.

It’s a beautiful place and I have a lot of childhood memories of time spent there. There are acres and acres of land to explore.

There’s a lot of wildlife too. One time the trail camera Georgie set up in the woods took a picture of a large bobcat, which freaked me out. Some time later, when we saw a fox in our yard, I called Georgie right away. I had to tell him he wasn’t the only one who had wildlife on his property.

There’s a pond where we used to swim when we were younger. I don’t really like to swim in the pond now because the water isn’t as clear as it used to be and I’m convinced there are giant scary fish in it like the gargantuan catfish Trish caught when we were ten. My dad threw it back and I’ve always wondered what the life span of the average catfish is.

When I was about nineteen Georgie, Trish and I were fishing in the pond, and Georgie didn’t look before he cast his line. We had to drive to the urgent care clinic in town to have the purple mister twister lure removed from my jaw.

The pond is just big enough to be able to ride a jet ski on (sort of) so you have to pay attention not to hit the bank. And it’s a Jet Ski that you have to stand up on, not a wave runner where you can sit comfortably while you ride around. You steer a Jet Ski by shifting your weight and you have to keep your speed up or you’ll tip over. It’s kind of like riding a bike on the water and it’s not easy.

Trish was taking a turn on the Jet Ski once and crashed into a tree that grew at the water’s edge on the south side of the pond. Even though we were all yelling at her to slow down, I don’t think she even backed off on the throttle.

A few years ago, we went down to Georgie’s and I was riding the Jet Ski. I could hear Georgie yelling something at me as I went by. “What? I can‘t hear you,” I yelled. I had to do another lap and come around again. Georgie yelled a little louder this time. He said, “My ice fishing shack fell through the ice because I didn’t pull it off the pond in time when it started to thaw. It’s under the surface of the water about three feet so don’t crash into it. “

I got off the Jet Ski immediately. I would rather come face to face with Trish’s big mutant catfish from 1977 than wipe out on a jet ski and then body slam into Georgie’s submerged ice shack.

Dave and I went to visit Georgie and Stef when Matthew was about two. It was summertime and I noticed there were daddy long-legs spiders everywhere. I hate spiders and even though daddy long-legs spiders aren’t as bad as a wolf spider or a brown recluse, I still don’t like them. I went to Girl Scout camp when I was ten and instead of tents, we slept in teepees. The teepee walls were covered in daddy long-legs spiders and our cots were pushed right up against them because the teepee was so tiny.

The spiders were crawling all over Georgie’s deck. Dave and I commented that we had never seen so many all in one place before.

Georgie tried to freak me out. “Tracey, daddy long- legs spiders are the most venomous in the world but their fangs are too short to penetrate human skin,” Georgie said. (He was totally lying but I didn’t know that until I got home and googled it. It’s actually a popular urban myth).

Later that night, after we put Matthew to bed, Georgie built a huge bonfire in the fire pit. I was wearing a white t-shirt and Stef said, “I think there’s a spider on your shirt. I see a little dot and it’s moving.” I jumped off the tree stump I was sitting on and started doing the spider dance, brushing off the front of my shirt while simultaneously screaming. I managed to calm myself down and returned to my tree stump.

Georgie and Stef had to leave to fill up their giant water tank so they could add water to their well. They said they’d be back soon so Dave and I waited for them on our stumps around the fire pit.

As the flames grew and the air above the campfire heated up and filled with smoke, about fifty squillion kajillion daddy long-legs spiders started raining down out of the pine tree branches that hung over the fire pit. I jumped off my tree stump shaking my arms and legs and I flung my head up and down and side-to-side to dislodge all possible spiders. I had a complete and total kook-out meltdown and by the time Georgie and Stef pulled back into the driveway, I had relocated Dave and I back onto the deck. That wasn’t good enough though because the spiders were still all over the deck so I went into the house, changed my clothes, medicated myself with beer, and refused to go outside for the rest of the night.

Everyone thought it was hysterical. Maybe I slightly over-reacted but I can’t imagine trying to relax around a nice campfire if there are spiders crawling all over me.

Now whenever we go to visit Georgie and Stef I keep a close watch on Matthew and Lauren. I scan the horizon for wild animals and I make sure no one goes near the pond without a life jacket.

The last time we were there, we let Matthew have a turn on the Jet Ski. He did a good job riding it. There was no ice-fishing shack to watch out for but there are still a couple of trees.

And I didn’t see a single daddy long-legs spider anywhere.

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