#TBT: Adventures in Yard Care

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This was originally posted September 22, 2014, but I had a similar run in when I cut grass earlier this afternoon. Not nearly as serious, but it brought this post to mind.

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Argiope aurantia, Yellow Garden Spider aka: Daughter of Rodan

Lately, I have been remiss in my duty to the grass. This lackadaisical approach along with some recent showers resulted in a stunning greensward behind our home.  Mama, God rest her precious soul, would have called it “snaky” for fear of encountering Mr. No Shoulders. I realized something had to be done before the situation got completely out of hand, so — having finished the ritual Monday “Home Blessing Hour” — I went to cut grass.

First, I reanimated “Frankie,” short for “The Bride of Frankenstein,” my ancient and trustworthy riding mower. She looks a sight. No cowling; no seat cover, and no wires because I cut every wire I could after I got fed up restarting the engine every time I tripped a kill switch. Frankie now cuts forward, backward, and upside down whether I’m on the seat or not. I know because I’ve rolled her twice and both times, the engine kept on trucking until the gravity feed carburetor ran dry whilst I was trapped on my back under her.

With Frankie rolling, I started cutting the back yard. Something nagged at the back of my mind, but try as I might, it just wouldn’t come to the surface so I could remember it. I only knew it was important. Then, I rounded the (unopened, again) pool — aka, “The Bane of My Existence” — and the day got interesting.

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a Yellow Garden Spider. Here, folks call them “Writing Spiders” because they often have crazy designs in their extremely elaborate webs which might be seen as writing. The tale goes if you see your name in a Writing Spider’s web, you’re going to die soon. I’ve never given that particular lore much credence since EVERY wives tale in the South ends with “that means you’ll die soon!” Seems I may have to rethink my stance.

I’d seen this gal last time I cut grass but, I started cutting the other way round that day and saw her large web with a great deal of warning. I gave her the wide berth she deserved that time. Yellow Garden Spiders are large arachnids, typically about the size of a saucer. She was bigger, about the size of Granny Wham’s turkey platter. I remembered what I couldn’t remember in the back of my mind just as Frankie’s front bumper twanged Daughter of Rodan’s web and things headed downhill picking up speed.

The contact with the bumper caused her web to oscillate, near to me then far from me. Faster than I could see, she scuttled to the center of her web where the amplitude of the web-wave was greatest. I didn’t know spiders understood physics, so I guessed her devious spider mind a split second too late. Just as the web reached its apogee, she hurled herself towards me. Time stopped; she hung suspended in mid-flight. For a moment, we were eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball. Time restarted once I registered she did NOT land on my face, neck, or chest. Had she actually landed on me, you would not be reading this, and why the fat man died on the lawnmower from a massive coronary would be a mystery.

Instead, she landed on Frankie’s steering wheel — then looked right at me with malice and forethought gleaming in all eight sparkly eyes.

Now, beloved, I am a gentle man. I don’t kill anything but roaches, mosquitoes and fire ants and only if they bother me. If I see a spider in the house, I trap it and set it outside. If I had to butcher my own meat, I would die of starvation. I’m not a treehugger or anything. I’ve just lived long enough to recognize all God’s creatures are just trying to get by as best they can like the rest of us and I just can’t bring myself to kill something if it’s not an absolute necessity.

Brethren, in addition to being a gentle man, I am also a generous man.  I would happily give a stranger the shirt off my back. If Budge didn’t watch over me, I’d have given the house away by now. When I stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, I will have a plethora of things to answer for, but neither greed nor lack of charity will be among them. Since charity is always at the forefront in my heart and I possess a giving spirit, I discerned in an instant the Daughter of Rodan needed Frankie more than I did.

In the spirit of generosity, I left her with it.

People often mention the “fact” bumblebees are aerodynamically incapable of flight. I bet those same folks will tell you a 350 lbs 5’10” man can’t possibly do a full backflip off a riding lawnmower from a seated position. Folks are wrong; I even stuck the landing. Then, Frankie started backing up towards me. Right then, cutting the kill switch wires seemed a bit premature. Of course, this eight legged refugee from a B-movie probably weighed enough to keep the switch closed anyway. All I could think was, “She’s coming to finish the job!” Now how’s that for gratitude? Let the spider have the lawnmower and she tries to run me down.

Now those bee people I mentioned earlier will also tell you a 350 lbs 5’10” man can’t possibly vault a six-foot tall chain link fence from a flat-footed position. Folks are wrong. With proper motivation, it is not only possible, it is quite easy. For the record, a spider the size of a manhole cover riding backwards on a lawnmower happens to be proper motivation. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick that landing. I landed flat of my back, knocking all the breath out of me. When I recovered — with some helpful face licks from Bozo, the neighbor’s beagle —  I looked between my feet to see Frankie straining to push through the fence I had just jumped. Daughter of Rodan was gone.

Replaying the events later, I realized I’d probably knocked the mower into reverse in my haste to give over operation to the Daughter of Rodan. I say “probably” because I saw her eyes. She might have decided to take me out and spend the rest of her days bragging about catching “the big one” down at the Spider Club while playing eight handed bridge and munching on candied flies as my stuffed head looked on.

We’ll never know.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

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