While suffering my enforced exile in California I could often be found searching for jumping spiders. One day I captured a particularly stunning one with black and white markings, dark black-green eyes and luminescent aquamarine fangs behind the feathery appendages which covered them.
Absolutely Beautiful Spider!
I gently herded her into a mason jar which contained several wood chips of varying shapes and sizes. Jumping spiders do not build webs; they live in caves made by little boys employing wood chips. (This is what my spidery experience had taught me through the years.)
Once I had done my time we moved back to Texas, but not before I was forced to abandon my Most Beautiful Spider, along with all the others I had collected, my mother announcing quite emphatically,
“I am NOT riding in a car all-the-way-home-to-Texas seated next to five jars full of damn spiders!”
Once back in Texas, for several weeks I suffered from PTSL: Post Traumatic Spider Loss. I missed my spiders, especially the beautiful one I had named ‘Sadie’.
Not that Texas has a spider shortage, mind you; I just did not immediately know where to look: “Looking for Spiders in all the wrong places.”
One day, lo’ and behold, I found a jumping spider which looked so very much familiar to me, (or perhaps she found me)
“Sadie! Sadie! Did you follow me all the way from California?” I asked breathlessly.
“Of course,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
I happily gathered her up and placed her into my newest mason jar, assuming she still wanted to be my pet.
About a month later, I proudly announced to my Grandparents:
“My spider is gonna have babies.”
“Lance Son,” my Grandmother informed me rather condescendingly, “There is no daddy spider in there. Your spider cannot possibly have baby spiders.”
Not ill-mannered enough to say it, I thought it: “Of course she can have baby spiders ‘without a ‘daddy.’ Spiders are like guppies: they store sperm until the time is ‘just right.’ But how could this old Tennessee-Baptist-Dyed-In-The-Wool-God-is-Great woman even wrap her mind around such things Darwin?”
Absolutely Incomprehensible To Her.
About two weeks later, I was up to my ass in baby spiders. I did not show grandmother these offspring. She would have told me it was yet one more miraculous example of God’s Work:
“The Immaculate Spider Conception.”
All the baby spiders slowly disappeared over time, crawling through the ice-pick holes in the lid of the Mason Jar two-by-two, or however. Fine. Neither Sadie nor I were interested in raising a passel of little spider crumb snatchers.
My Lady Spider was a huntress and she complained daily regarding my neglect of her need. She ached for something more than the flies I would daily cast into her mason jar. They were just food. No thrills to be had in the hunt, merely a harvest. She was growing morose.
“You’re killing my Spider Soul with all these damn flies Lance,” she said.
“OK Sadie! I will give you something to satiate your arachnid need,” I told her one morning.
Under the eaves of my Grandfather’s shed lived a few Black Widow Spiders. They had established some manner of ‘Black Widow Sisterhood,’ (Not unlike similar ‘Sisterhoods’ to be found on Social Media these days.) Even though I am most definitely a spider geek, Black Widows never intrigued me as potential pets, mainly because they needed more than a Mason Jar Ecosystem for lodging and accoutrements and also because of their lethargic laisser-faire approach to acquiring sustenance:
“Sit in their parlor-web all day; wait for something hapless to happen by.”
No hunt in them whatsoever. Boring.
Slightly peeved with Sadie, I decided to capture one of The Sisters. I took her to Sadie’s Mason jar and dropped her in.
“Happy now damn you?” I said.
Sadie looked about at her new roommate. Then looked up at me through multiple dark green eyes and said,
“I never thought we would come to this.”
“Sorry, ol’ Gal,” I giggled. “This is the part where the cowboy rides away. Catch ya laters. Good luck.”
I was curious and in fact, had nothing but time on my hands so I watched to see how she would deal with her new jar-mate, never really fearful for her safety.
But Black Widow was wily. She taunted Sadie, waving her long, spindly legs about in semaphore fashion, as if to say, “Come hither Little Jumper, let me demonstrate the technique that has given my kind our terrible dark name.”
Sadie began deliberately circling around Black Widow, sizing her up, her little Sadie neurons firing on and off, then seizing what I’m certain she perceived as perfect opportunity, jumped at her full force.
Her momentum caused her to tumble onto her back.
Black Widow capitalized and deftly captured Sadie and began wrapping her in web, presumably to eat at her leisure. But Black Widow made one fatal mistake:
She bound Sadie’s hind legs (all four of them) first, leaving her front legs (all four of THEM) free. As Black Widow was casually wrapping her up, Sadie grabbed her with unencumbered front legs and planted a big wet French Kiss into Black Widow’s thorax. They remained locked in this embrace for thirty minutes. (I know; I was there, timing it–for ‘science’)
Black Widow now hoisted with her own petard and quite dead, was dropped by Sadie, who watched her tumble down and land with an inaudible (to me) thud on the Mason Jar floor.
“Sadie,” I said. “Your indentured servitude has ended. Here, allow me help you out of that.”
Fishing some tweezers that I had stolen from my Grandmother’s “Lady-Bag” bag from my jean’s pocket I gently and meticulously pulled all the Black Widow silk from Sadie, a tedious time consuming effort which took at least half an hour. Then I gingerly laid the Mason Jar on its side hiding it in a pile of kindling away from the prying eyes of opportunistic birds and went on about my business.
Returning the next day, I discovered no Sadie: just a note written in Spider’ease which read:
“Thank you for allowing me to save myself. I will always love you, but I’ve had quite enough of Texas and Texan ways. If you ever make it back to California, look me up. Here is my email addy: (Redacted) Spider On! Y’all!”
And that was how she ended it.
Took me three days to get the webs out of my brain and a week to find another spider, but she was not the same. She was not MY Sadie, just an inadequately inept substitute, but I suppose that’s how it goes with First Loves lost.
“I miss you Sadie,” I caught myself saying to no one in particular few days later.