The Vine

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fourth of July Arachnophila

On the 4th of July Austinites by the thousands conglomerate around Zilker Park for the fireworks display, jockeying for good open sky positions and assembling in whatever tribal units they choose or get invited to for the occasion. Sunburns cool off and potsmoke rises as if offerings to the masters of pyrotechnics. The show is usually great but it always seems too short.

People who live near the park try to help out the parking and gridlock situation for their friends, and you want to make sure you have one of these invites at least for parking purposes.

LM and I had two invites between us, one from Trailer Park Girl who assembled a sizeable clan of the Kingdom of Slack conveniently upstream from "Barking Springs," (the spillway from Barton Springs where you don't have to pay to get in and you, your kids and your dogs are welcome, except for the "NO SWIMMING" "NO WADING" and "NO DOGS" signs which we all ignore until at random calendar intervals the bike cops come and run everybody off, issuing tickets to the slowest runners. REMEMBER - always run!)

After hooping it up with the KOS crowd and catching some cold water at the spillway we moved up the hill to Triplewide's place. Good company was had, met a friend I had lost track of years ago, ate B's wicked grilled jalapeno poppers (never again), and, here is where the story began.

While I was out unloading my hoops, just in case, I heard L calling to her kids, "Hey, kids come look at this huge spider in the street!" Her boychild, C, obviously got the arachnophobia gene from somewhere, I know he didn't get it from his parents. "No, Mommy, I don't like spiders!" But naturally she coaxed him over, trying to get him comfortable with the critter. "I sure wanna see a big spider," I piped in, and joined them. Well this was a Texas Brown (or Tan?) Tarantula, easily 3 inches+ of leg span. "Hey, C, do you dare me to touch it?" as we crowded around our specimen, which froze. "No, don't touch it!" wailed C. "I'm gonna touch it..." I teased. Knowing that this species was gentle to a fault, I was still daring myself to touch it, and... I did, gently, on the rump. It sprang into motion, scuttling out of the street and onto a grassy curb just over a little creek drainage where perhaps it kept its web tunnel. "See, C, it was more afraid of us than we were afraid of it," explained L.

Shortly thereafter we all walked up the hill to the elementary school to see the fireworks which didn't last long enough, and I didn't have any potsmoke to offer and nobody made the offering for me, sigh.

On the way back, neighbors and their friends were streaming back into the neighborhood, like after some rock concert. LM and a few of our gang were in the lead, and what did we see, but the same tarantula in the street, next to the creek! Fearing that it would be accidently stomped, or become a victim of arachnocide, we endeavored to return it to safety. Being the least arachniphobic, most bug-loving of most any group of people, I tend to take the lead on things like this. I tried to shoo it towards the grassy curb, but it resolutely end-ran me back into the street. These critters like to warm themselves on asphalt, but gee, its the 4th of July in Texas, eight-legs!

People were streaming around, and some were encouraging us, and I attempted to block Tarantula's suicidal mission by blocking it with my feet. The creek was just 8 feet away!

JUMP! It jumped from between my feet and ran up the back of my right leg, and stopped for a rest on my thigh just below my shorts. Okay, I got a big fucking spider on my ass now, and people are staring. Now what do I do? I wasn't in a hurry since this was a good chance to do some important PR work on behalf of Arthropodia. I let people look, and see that a girl wasn't afraid of spiders, and that spiders, at least this kind of spider, was harmless.

"Get over to the creek," says H, with a Daddy's authority. "Shake it off over there." At least somebody wasn't spellbound. So I moved slowly to the curb, and as I stepped off the street, Tarantula climbed up my butt, up my back and came to rest on the top of my right shoulder. I looked back over my shoulder towards the gawking onlookers, and pretended to give the spider a kiss. I felt completely honored, and H had had enough of the spectacle. "Let me help you," he said, climbed up onto the weedy curd
and brushed the tarantula off my shoulder into the (dry) creekbed.

So I could feel chosen by a new animal guide, and get myself a new pagan name. I have always felt more called to the enigmatic microfauna as opposed to all the folks who go by Wolf and Bear and suchlike. The meek Rough Green Snake twines around my ankle, but most of my allies have been plants. Maybe it is yet again another excuse for a dream tattoo, a tarantula on my shoulder!

One possibility that it has led me to decide against is keeping a spider as a pet. I have often thought that a spider would be a very cool addition to my limited menagerie, and that vet bills would be less than for a cat, and maybe that grief would be comparitively less expensive for the eventual death of a spider.

Maybe. But again I came down with the moral bottom line for me which is: wild creatures are not pets. They belong in the wild.

Even if it is in the Wild of the streets of Austin.

Fare thee well, Fluffy!


At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would so have loved to see the onlookers' faces as you ushered the fuzzy arachnid to safety!


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