I don’t have a problem with spiders, not really; l mean, if they keep their distance, l am pretty good about it all, and the feeling is possibly mutual. I don’t go out of my way to upset them, but I am fascinated with them. They send a kind of creepy pleasurable shudder through me when l see them up close. It’s hard to explain, but kind of like a ‘nice to feel scared, but not scared at all’ sensation?
My first excursion with this species began when l was around five years of age. I lived in Australia back in the ’60s in the Dandenong Ranges, in Victoria. There are no ‘actual’ photographs of mine to display here to add realism. As is always the case with most people – there is never a camera when needed. But then, admittedly, l was five. As such, l was into most things that l didn’t particularly wish to have my parents photograph me doing!
Where l used to live, our post [mail] box was not attached to our door and probably still the same for many rural households in Oz. It was on a post down the drive in a rockery – quite ingenious if you think on it, a post and a box equals ‘postbox’. The rockeries were a big thing in gardens back then, probably once again still the same. All sorts of creepy crawlies and critters lurked beneath those rocks! From the innocent to the devious!
Back then, creepy crawlies were my passion, so l am no longer surprised today because they still are! I loved the pretty colours and how they moved and scuttled away as l moved the rocks to the left, to the right, tipped them up.
A few spiders dwelled under those rocks, funnel webs, redbacks, occasionally mouse spiders, trapdoors, whitetails, and one of my all-time favourites, the huntsman. Of course, l wasn’t aware when l was five of the names, just that they looked ‘pretty’. Equally, l wasn’t aware of any of the dangers that lurked within them either – who would – l was five!
But the Redbacks were a beautiful spider. Now l did know because my parents constantly told me that l was NOT to pick up any by hand. As Mum used to say, ‘They had a nasty bite, and l might get poorly‘, note the term poorly and not the word dead. So because there was no deadly attachment, the spiders must be ok to collect, l figured!
So l collected them for my parents to see when they woke up – l forgot to mention that l guess, but intrepid explorers don’t stick to convention, you know. Oh no, so l used to rise at around 5 am, get dressed in shorts and thongs [flip flops], and go outside armed with lollypop sticks and a glass jar!
Poking around the rockery, and should any hapless and harmless little eight-legged creature dare to venture out, stick its tongue out at me, and boof, on the stick, in the jar! It was all quite exciting. They used to climb up the stick and nearly got to my fingertips but never made it and were promptly dropped into their new glass cave!
When l had a relatively large collection of my chosen spider for the day, happy as a lark, l would strut my stuff back to the house and put them into the fridge, so they were cool from the sun! More importantly, they were there when my parents woke up.
Aah, the memories are sweet. I was like a cat with a mouse showing my pack leaders my catch for the day. One memory quite significantly l recall with fondness!
My Father, the gallant and mighty policeman, made me breakfast one morning and asked if l wanted Fruitloops. As they were my favourite, l said yes, please. He opened the fridge and suddenly froze; before this strange gargling sound escaped his lips, it was most bizarre.
“Rory, have you been outside this morning?”
“Yes, Daddy! I collected presents for you and Mummy!”
“So this jar is yours?”
“No, it’s yours, and Mummy’s.”
“It’s full of spiders Rory, little black ones with red spots … red spots, the red-spotted spider is the …….. it’s the REDBACK!!!”
“Pretty spiders, lots of pretty spiders for you and Mummy!”
He then acted strangely and called my Mother into the Kitchen! “Look what your Son has collected from outside for us both this morning!?” [I was always my mother’s responsibility when something like this was happening]
Then Mummy shrieked and ran around the house. Daddy took my jar of cold spiders out of the house and tipped them away, which upset me quite a bit as l had gone to so much trouble to collect them!
Some people – even parents, are never grateful l feel!
However, l had to go through the parental talk concerning the dangers of picking up the Redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) as it could kill me – like there are so many variations of being dead, l guess. Although l have read since then that whilst l might not have died even at five, l probably would not have been very well. Quite possibly just poorly had l, of course, managed to get to a hospital that just also happened to have the antivenom, but who knows, l was never bitten.