Hen Island in Lake Erie is a spidery place. You regularly see little spiders scurrying about in the corners of the old buildings, and if you walk around the island you need to be prepared to scrape some stray cobwebs from your arms or your face.
Coming face to face with a huge, hairy-legged monstrosity on a screened-in porch is quite another matter, however.
This beauty showed up on the porch on Saturday morning. It was not quite as big as a tarantula — but close . . . appallingly, disgustingly close. It was down by a baseboard, near a table leg, looking bigger than it actually was because it was a female spider toting an egg sac. As our group of six or seven sat on our rockers, reading and chatting on a pretty morning, one member of the group noticed the spider. Then, the conversation went something like this:
“Hey, look at the size of that spider. Holy shit!”
“That’s a wolf spider. It’s harmless.”
“You may be right, but my conscious mind refuses to believe that anything that looks like that is harmless.”
“Well, they can bite.”
“Yeah, but the bite is not poisonous.”
“It will still leave a pretty good welt.”
“I’ve heard that wolf spiders can leap ten feet.”
Wait . . . ten feet? At that point everybody on the porch did a mental calculation of their range from the spider, which now looked suspiciously like it was crouching and ready to spring, and whether they were beyond the ten-foot zone of death. I’m guessing that many of the rockers had the same thought I did — a mental image of a shaggy horror suddenly flying through the air, landing on their face, close enough so you can get a good look at the inhuman eyes and the slavering mandibles, and delivering a sharp, painful bite. And if that bulging egg sac happened to burst at just that moment, releasing a horde of ravenous, biting baby spiders with Olympic-caliber leaping abilities into an enclosed area . . . .
At that point, getting a cup of coffee from the kitchen in the next building seemed like a really good idea.
One of the staffers eventually came and put the spider, which had remained blessedly huddled near the table, in a jar. We all took a good look, then released it outside, feeling good and environmentally sensitive about letting the spider back into its habitat but nevertheless unsettled by our brush with the wild world.