Yesterday morning began with a handsome six-point buck and two equally good looking does watching me from the safety of a rocky outcropping the same shade of golden-brown as the deer.
This time of year the hills and meadows are also the same color as the deer, so the animals are close to invisible when they stand still. But the lovely triangle formed by their large black eyes and black nose gives them away.
I saw that triangle, topped by spectacular antlers, staring shyly at me as I drove down the drive, and I felt happy. What a beautiful way to start the day.
Late in the afternoon, I was startled by another autumn sight – a Tarantula just inches from me. It, too, stood absolutely still on my friend’s red brick patio, but there was no camouflage for this big, black, hairy arachnid.
Yes, we not only have rattlesnakes in the heat of the summer, but come fall, we have Tarantulas crawling out of their holes or out from under rocks, searching for mates.
The first Tarantula I ever saw in these parts walked across the road in front of my car like a big, black hairy hand walking on fingertips across the pavement.
I’ve learned that Tarantulas eat insects, beetles and grasshoppers, while snakes, lizards and birds eat them. Certain wasps use them as food for wasp larvae. And here’s a food fact for you – in Cambodia, Tarantula is considered a delicacy. They’re roasted over open fire to remove the hair and then eaten. Evidently, they taste like peanuts.
Although Tarantulas don’t usually bite people, if they do, their bite won’t kill.
Yesterday’s encounter happened as I was walking along a friend’s brick pathway. Suddenly, I saw the big spider and was stopped in my tracks. It looked about three inches long to me. It was so large, that I thought it might be one of those plastic Halloween decorations, so I called to my friend, Joy, asking if she’d seen any Tarantulas around the place.
"Yes, we had a big female on one of our deck chairs this afternoon," she said. Then, glancing at the chair, added, "But it’s gone now."
"Maybe its mate is here," I said.
She grabbed her camera and we both took pictures of the hairy, black spider. Then we retreated to another part of the property.
I’ll post one of the pictures I took of it yesterday. The brick it is standing on is two-inches wide…so you look at the spider’s size and see how big you think it is.
Tarantulas can be from one to four inches long, with a leg span from three to twelve inches. Each leg has retractable claws at the end that help the spider climb trees.
But the most fascinating fact for me is the spider’s life span. Tarantulas can live 30 to 40 years. Three to four decades!
I wonder if Tarantulas grow and develop and learn and become more fully themselves during their long life. Or are they more like those humans who just sit in front of the TV year in and year out, never having a fresh idea, never learning anything new?
Since it’s Tarantula mating season here in Mark Twain country, I’ll share a clever quote about the big spiders from Twain’s book Roughing It: "Some of these spiders could straddle over a common saucer with their hairy, muscular legs, and when their feelings were hurt, or their dignity offended, they were the wickedest-looking desperadoes the animal world can furnish. If their glass prison-houses were touched ever so lightly, they were up and spoiling for a fight in a minute. Starchy? Proud? Indeed, they would take up a straw and pick their teeth like a member of Congress."