Brown Recluse Therapeutics…

This story, originally published by me on March 3, 2010, is republished from my blog The Difference Between A Duck.

Today was warm and beautiful outdoors.  I’ve never had a green thumb – in fact it’s generally what I’d consider brown.  But enticed by the fresh air and clear skies, I headed outdoors to work on my back yard.

Mainly, there was a lot of trimming and raking to be done.  I hear there are all sorts of trimming rules for the health of your bushes and trees, but I know none of these things.  However, I wish to entertain with a cook out, and to clean things up.  And I haven’t ventured out to maintain anything back there in months.  So I did it the slow way – trimmed around, stepped back to look, placed chairs, stepped back to look, trimmed some more, tried to reach here and there, until it looked ok.  I think.

I should have used gloves though.  My hands are very sore.  And the loppers we have are bent, so their work wasn’t the finest nor quickest, nor for that matter, painless.  Still, the back yard does look better.

As I uncovered stones and timbers while removing old leaves, various spiders scurried about.  And I was reminded of my childhood down at my father’s shop.  And the wars I fought against the brown recluse invasion there.  I don’t generally believe in killing spiders, save the dangerous ones.

It was years before my Dad realized I was telling him the truth about the poisonous spiders I worked around in the wood room.  I wasn’t just being a scared little girl after all.  And by then, of course, I’d learned to cope with my circumstances – by hunting them.  By knowing their habits and every move. And by catching them in jars in case someone would finally notice not only the markings, but the numbers.

I was the only one in the family who not only didn’t wear glasses, but had eyes that tested better than the norm.  Details were obvious to me in an instant from any distance.  Though perhaps sometimes a curse.  I could see things that others could not.  It is sad to me that today I should wear weak glasses while working on my projects, not because I can’t see them, but because my eyes do not adjust from close to far as quickly anymore. They tell me the cones are aging.  And I still test better than 20/20.  What a strange circumstance for me.

It’s my guess that the sheer numbers of recluses at the shop caused them to be less reclusive than “experts” claim them to be.  I wonder how many experts have worked in a building practically owned by a recluse “clan.”  Though that makes them sound friendlier to family than they really are.

I turned over a rock in my backyard.  Sure enough, there was the tunnel in the groove and the tell-tale hunched body with the sand-dollar shaped back and famous “fiddle” back shape.  When they are surprised like this, they hunch and hesitate like a cat before they spring or run.  As if to decide which choice to make.  But even so, the process is very, very quick.  Micro-seconds at best.  And in spite of their reclusive nature, when disturbed they have no fear. If you are in their territory, all bets are off.  They do not hold back.

For but an instant, memories flood back to me of flipping timbers outside the wood shop, hunting for the spiders and egg sacks I knew would be there.  Every week, killing every one, because their numbers were growing and the docile native wood spiders were nearly gone.  Recluses were taking over the place, killing off all the rest and no one believed me.  Then the memory washes over me.

Flipping a timber – you had to be quick  – and I was an expert by then.  You don’t flip a timber slowly when you know it’s the home of an average of 4-6 recluses each, that you can see on the outside.  And there were many timbers lined in front of Dad’s wood-shop and storage shed for parking.  Your movement must be quick and you barely touch the timber when you execute.

But this one time, one of them was quicker than lightning.  As if it knew exactly what I was doing and exactly what would happen.  Remember Arachnophobia?  The demon soldier spider predicting every move?  When I saw that comedy, I immediately identified with that detail.  The timber flipped and it was on me in the same instant.  Racing up my arm.  It was an old one – big and quick.  The old ones were the only ones who managed to survive my jars.  Put a bunch of brown recluses together in a jar and soon there is only one left alive.  The biggest one.  They are extremely resistant to all poisons, except their own.  I never touch them, even when dead.  And here was a healthy one with strong markings – racing up my bare arm.  The image has been frozen with me ever since.

As quickly as it was on, I swiped my hand down my arm and flung it into the grass away from me.  Danced back and then pounced and crushed it under my shoe.  It was some time before I stopped trembling.  And at the same time, it was empowering: escaping the brown recluse bite.

Today I eye the quite small recluse under my stone.  Not old like the big ones back home.  It hunches.  In the same second I crush it.  As easily today as a quarter of a century ago.

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Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Brown Recluse Therapeutics…

  1. mary i

    Wow!! very well written story. gave me the “creepys” I have to start my yard work when this rain gets out of here. Never seen a Brown R. I have a thing with Black widows. You are Tuff lady.:)

    • Thanks Mary! I wrote this partly as an exercise in honing my reflective story telling skills. Glad you liked it!

      Little known fact, I was later “commissioned” by my university to capture poisonous spider specimens to be put on display at the library so students new to Texas would know what they looked like. Including a black widow!

  2. Amy

    I don’t usually kill spiders either not even the black widows that hung around our house (mostly outside) in Arizona. But on brown recluses, I agree with you. I’ve known people hospitalized by the bite. Good story.

  3. Pingback: Life Enriched: My Fascination With Spiders And Webs | Aberrant Crochet (TM)

  4. Kathy Sahagian

    Excellent story, shared

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