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Since I purloined 6 percent of the Republican primary vote from Congressman Pete Stauber I’ve written five columns of absolutely critical analysis about US politics for the Reader. They are unsubmitted and collecting dust. I’m wearied of America’s blood sport - trashing the Declaration of Independence. So instead let me explain the cartoon my wife Claudia taped to the door across from our basement toilette.
Our basement bathroom has been the scene of another blood sport this summer. While enduring my quarantine I’ve watched a succession of spiders setting up shop. I haven’t minded. Naturalists tell us to cut them some slack because they keep pests down.
The first to weave a silken net was a lithe, long-legged, cellar spider. He set up by a door hinge. He was followed by more compact spider that spun a web in the ceiling corner directly above. I’ve dropped insects in spider webs since childhood most spectacularly on an Iowa farm where I saw a garden spider wrap a sturdy grasshopper like a mummy in thirty seconds. I wondered what a contest between spiders would be like? I knocked the little one from his ceiling perch and upon reaching the floor long legs began reeling him in with a refined delicacy that put fly fishermen to shame. However, the prey scrambled to safety. I vowed not to pit such rivals against each other again. Through the summer at least five species moved in but our bathroom is a bit of a food dessert. In frustration they kept moving on like fishermen searching for better fishin’ holes leaving old webs behind.
One morning I found a small spider hovering above a potential meal that reminded me of an internet video. That video showed a fearsome 3 foot Australian tiger snake flailing above a garage floor caught in the web of a notorious Redback. (Google it!) My drama took place in a corner by the vanity where an inch-and-a-quarter long centipede frantically ran is hundred legs in place suspended just above the floor. Its captor was a spider whose abdomen was no longer than the centipede was wide. It skittered up and down the web looping invisible threads onto the much larger predator. The flailing captive lunged upwards snapping its scimitar-like mandibles. I record a minute of the struggle on my cell phone. It would last five hours and I periodically returned to record its progress. I had a favorite. Centipedes are one of the few critters I don’t hesitate to squash along with pill bugs. Spiders I toss 0ut of my house.
After his conquest I told Claudia and others to leave the web alone. While other spiders kept moving to new disappointments this little spider remained over its glory hole getting fatter and fatter. Below the web lay litter of spent husks. One day I found an unidentifiable critter curled under her ravening. I presume “her” because my cell phone photo, when blown up, suggested she had consumed a suitor. Another time I found one of two roving cellar spiders upended on the floor caught in her silken threads. I blew on the cellar spider and it hobbled half a step which excited the bereaved widow. Her stirrings brought the cellar spider to a stop. They were like two wary submarines listening to each other in an old war movie. Later the cellar spider picked its way to freedom.
One agate red spider spent a couple quiet days on the web of a cellar spider. I wondered if he wanted to share. And a baby spider smaller than the period ending this sentence took over an abandoned web. I’ve seen such babies floating off our pine tree by the hundreds on windy spring days after letting out enough silk to catch the breeze to fly off to parts unknown.
Most of the spiders have now retreated from the bathroom. I vacuumed up all their webs today, all of them except for the one belonging to my especially fatal companion. Hers is a perilous world as her lovelorn suitor discovered. Every summer I see iridescent blue wasps searching out their webs on my patio to sting them into becoming incubators for their eggs. Birds snap them up by the millions. Even one of my cats seems always to have her face covered in webs. She’s probably looking for something more flavorful than the same old kibble.
It's a lethal world but the spiders in my bathroom have no pretensions, no red button of Armageddon and no cult following. During the Vietnam protests a college chum chided me when I called for calm. “Remember what Jefferson said”, he told me, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’”
That’s what I’m afraid of. The release of our inner spiders.
Harry Welty is currently closing in on a three-year mission to learn French hence his arraignées. He farts around on www.lincolndemocrat.com