Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A spider story

This one is not for the faint of heart or the severely arachnophobic. You have been warned.

Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I went to Girl Scout camp for a week every summer with the bibliophile. This was no prissy camp. We hiked up and down huge hills in the Southern Ohio Valley summer, where it can get up to almost 100 degrees with 80-90% humidity. One of the hills, dubbed Agony Hill, was so steep that no vehicles were allowed on it, not even the groundskeeper's truck. Walking up Agony, you slid back one step for every two you took on the gravel. When I took MB to visit my camp a few summers back, we were halfway down Agony when he said, "You climbed up this thing? Why?"

Agony was the worst, but the rest of Camp was pretty hillacious, too. Rumor had it that the Boy Scouts had been offered the land first, but had declined it because it was too rugged, so the Girl Scouts got it instead. As you can imagine, this was an immense point of pride for us.

At Camp, you slept here:

You showered here:

Went for daily swimming lessons here:

And boated here:

There was no air conditioning, no screened in cabins. There were bugs everywhere, of course, especially ticks and Daddy longlegs. There was no chlorinated pool. There were fish in the lake, and frogs, and a legendary snapping turtle named Walter that no one ever saw but everyone knew about, and occasionally vicious horseflies hung around the dock and preyed on campers climbing up to use the diving board.

If you whined too much about the heat or the hiking or the bugs or the fish, you ran the risk of being dubbed a "princess camper." The bibliophile and I, we had our whiny moments, but we were no princesses.

This story really starts on our first day of Camp, second or third year. We were unpacking in our tent with two other tentmates when someone casually said to the bibliophile, "There's a spider on the wall by your bed." The rest of us turned to look, expecting one of the ubiquitous daddy longlegs. Instead, we saw a giant wolf spider. No lie, with legs included, it was probably about the size of the top of a pop can. I'm pretty sure we uttered Catholic 8th-graders' versions of "HOLY SHIT!" The bibliophile grabbed her camera and snapped a photo, but then the spider booked it down the canvas of the tent wall and (disconcertingly) vanished.

When our unit gathered at the fire ring for a first-day pre-dinner meet and greet, we tried to tell the counselors that we'd seen a giant spider in our tent. They gently mocked what they felt was a ridiculous exaggeration, and by the time we returned from opening night festivities, we'd forgotten all about our fifth roommate. Until we returned to our tent for the evening, that is. As we were getting ready for bed, somebody's flashlight beam landed on the spider, which was now lurking on the ceiling beam. The bibliophile's immediate reaction:  "Get the counselors!" We needed to prove that we were not princesses, that we really had seen an obscenely large spider in our tent.

We dragged the counselors bodily to the tent, and upon seeing the interloper, they pretty much agreed that it was a huge fucking spider. Then they said, "Well, it's your tent. Get rid of it. There are brooms in the shed." We decided pretty quickly that there was no way in hell we were squishing it. First of all, we were definitely not prepared to deal with that volume of spider guts. Second, what if we missed? Or worse, what if we hit him but he was only wounded and really pissed off? One of the counselors gave us a water bottle with a jar-type lid, a bottle that had a mouth roughly the exact same diameter as the diameter of the spider and his legs, and I somehow ended up being the one who held the bottle up under the spider while another girl used the broom from the shed to knock the spider off its perch and onto my arm OHMYHOLYHELL into the jar. Luckily, the spider landed solidly in the jar, and I was able to slap the lid on and secure it. Our plan was to suffocate the spider in the jar, and therefore avoid gutsapalooza.

When we woke up the next morning, the spider was still alive inside the sealed jar. We began to develop a grudging respect for it, and opened the pop-up straw so it could get some air. We checked on our prisoner when we came back to our tent in the afternoon and he was still alive. Some ants had crawled into the bottle, but the spider was so beset by rage that he only stomped on them a little bit, and didn't try to eat them. We took him with us to the dining hall and asked the cook for a bigger jar, and later she gave us a giant peanut butter jar that had been washed out and had holes punched in the lid. We transferred the spider to the peanut butter jar, named him Beelzebub, and kept him as a pet / totem for the rest of the week, taking him (in the jar) with us a few times so we could show him to the younger campers and thoroughly traumatize awe them.

On the last day of camp, we let Beelzebub go, and watched as he hightailed it for the woods. I'd like to think he's still out there, giant and grumpy, more Aragog than Shelob, telling his children and grandchildren about the time he was captured in a terrible trap and had to use his cunning, guile, and tremendous badassery to survive.

Reading:  Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Playing:  the Decemberists


  1. In the condo I used to live in? Beside the stream? I used to get those things IN MY HOUSE. Like... often enough that I am now a damned good aim with a paperback. (shudder) Also?

    They can jump. I'm just sayin;...

  2. I heart spiders mucho lots.

  3. Anonymous9:45 PM

    Thats ok, I didn't want to sleep tonight anyway. Or tomorrow. Spiders are evil. I don't care that they eat other gross bugs. That is just the over 4 legged version of cannibalism. Can we have anice pic of Kitters or a story about rainbows and unicorns now to make the spiderness stop? Please?

  4. Shudders. Now was that last picture random photostock or was one of you actually brave enough to hold it? And second, I believe the size because I had one that size crawl out of my SHOE THAT I had been WEARING moments before in college. Which was not the biggest I saw in college either, but definitely the most traumatizing. And we definitely had to vacuum one like that up in the bathroom a few weeks after we moved in here.

  5. Oh, HELLS NO we didn't touch him. I found the picture online because it properly illustrates his size and ferocity.

    It was in your SHOE???? *dies*

  6. This was a great post. I really enjoyed it. I think.

    On PBS HD the other night they had a special on the Amazon, about finding the fabled chicken-eating tarantula. They had this camera thing that they'd wheel into the spider nest, and it was all dark and eerie, and then all of a sudden, you could see dozens of hairy black legs and fangs and eyes peering out of the shadows of the walls. HEEBIE JEEBIE CENTRAL. I don't usually get spooked by what I see on TV, but I had the heebies all night long, and had to race up the stairs from the laundry room in the basement afterwards, thinking about it.


  7. Chicken...eating... *dies again*

  8. that is indeed a huge fucking spider.

    When the Rock Star and I lived on our boat, it was a haven or all things 8 legged. We had a tentative agreement with our octaped friends; anyone larger than a 50 pence piece had to go, but everyone else could stay on the proviso that they ate the mozzies that came in through the vents in the roof. The 50p sized spiders liked to hide for as long as they could and their favorite hiding place was our towels. There is nothing more creepifying than drying your naked body and suddenly feeling something scuttling down your leg. Blergh.

  9. we had a quantity wolf spiders in our crawl space once, but only the baby ones (nickel size or so) could sneak up into the house. i can testify to the fact that they can indeed jump. i'm so glad that was temporary.


  11. I was going to comment on this, and then realized that I already commented on it. That's a little scary. HELLO SENILITY!

  12. Um, this is Schnozz, by the way. (Stupid automatic Google ID.)