It was my first full summer in the Lone Star State; I was a sophomore in college. I had grown up in New England where the thermometer flirted in the low 90’s maybe twice a summer. Now that I was a resident, I was not fully prepared for Texas’s hot summers. This was a whole another world from Vermont. I quickly learned that hell doesn’t scare a Texan. It’s due to the fact that when you leave the comforts of air conditioning, you feel as if you are bobbing for french fries with the fryer on.
I had met a kindly older couple earlier in the fall and they were desperate for one or two young men to mow their lawn while they sought cooler summer temperatures in Minnesota. Since the first half of my summer was extremely busy for me, I made an agreement with another young man that he mow their lawn in May and June, I would take July and August. It was early in July when I finally made it to their little old home. It was down a dusty dirt road. What pitfalls could I possibly run into? They only lived on a little country road called Copperhead Lane. As I pulled up into their driveway, my heart sank. The young man who had promised to be their caretaker of the lawn, had not only neglected his duty, but had not mowed it even once. The grass was almost waist high.
As I wheeled their trusty lawnmower out of their utility shed, dodging mutant red wasps in the process, I checked the fluid levels. Now several pulls on the starter and a kick or two later, I had the motor finally running. Before starting my swath, I raised the blade. I knew it would require a double mowing, the lawn resembled more of an amber waves of grain theme. As the lawnmower lurched forward, something surreal happened. The whole yard came to life. I repeat, the whole yard came to life. Like a withering mirage on a distant road, the blades of grass spewed within its stems hundreds and hundreds of tarantulas. Hidden among the grass was the largest colony of venomous spiders I had ever seen in my life.
If they had run towards me, I would still be running to this day. My only point of reference for this creature was on a pillow in a James Bond movie. It would be planted there to kill an unsuspecting bad guy. As I jumped back to watch this mass migration, I noticed the noise and vibration of the mower had them teeming into the far side of the lawn.
Angry and fearful that this infestation would probably make my job far more difficult, I ran over one humongous spider the size of my palm with my lawnmower tire. Crushed, it rolled into a ball the size of my thumb nail. It was at this point that I felt foolish. Though the spider had seemed gigantic to me, it was a fraudulent portrayal. It was all legs and he was more frightened of me than I was of him.
As I contemplated my next move, I decided I wouldn’t be in such a hurry as planned. I resigned myself to the fact that the lawn would take forever to mow today, because these majestic spiders needed safe passage to wherever they were going next. I never became a lover of Tarantulas, but I learned to respect them; there is strength in numbers. I am in agreement however with the adage, “Whatever we fear, makes us stronger”. It’s ironic, it’s been 30 years since that day, and for me, it’s still a piece of advice that has legs.