Bobbing for Spiders and Other Critter Tales

Daddy's Little Huntress
I didn't grow up calling a tabby cat a tabby cat. I grew up calling a tabby cat a brindled cat. Peggy, well-traveled Air Force brat that she was, considered this but another example of rural Southern backwardness. I recently pointed out to her that American authors who wrote between the Civil War and the Great Depression (such authors constitute most of my reading), commonly use the word brindled.

Peggy is an arachnophobe, so there is hardly a day that goes by but what I don't have a new opportunity to display manly gallantry by facing down spiders while she screams, "Don't let it get away!" and then, "It's going to get away!" When it doesn't get away, she implores, "Are you sure you killed it?" followed by, "Is it really dead?" followed by, "Are you sure it's really dead?" Because I deny her the indulgence of getting me out of bed to kill spiders, she is forced to either do the job herself or to enlist the help of our ferocious huntress, Scully. Scully is SO ferocious that she'll throw her whole body at a gnat. She's a cat possessed, and regularly leaves the boys standing back with their eyes wide and their ears back as if to say, "We're all crazy about killing things, but this chick's SCARY CRAZY!" 

Last week, Peggy woke up first, and found the kitchen occupied by a spider that, in her eyes, was the size of a small grizzly. She implored Scully to kill it, and Scully said, "No problem, but I'd like to bob for it first, and proceeded to drop the spider into her water bowl. After she had batted it around for awhile, the spider finally succeeded in climbing upon Scully's nose whereupon Scully slung her head from side to side and sent the spider flying. Because it was too soggy and discouraged to "play," Scully then gobbled it down.

It takes a man to do this to a cat
When Brewsky was a young cat, he was so stubborn that I lived in awe of how far he would go to get his way even when he surely realized that I was going to out-stubborn him. For instance, when Peggy and I got out of bed, Brewsky would want to continue sleeping. I would indulge him a little, but the fact was that I wanted to get the bed made. I would eventually put him on the floor and proceed to make the bed, or at least try to make the bed, the problem being that he would jump back in before I could get started. His record for doing this on a a single occasion was twelve. Yes, of course, I could have put him out of the room, or scolded him so severely that he wouldn't dare cross me, but I enjoyed the contest. When the bed was finally made, I would put him back in, and we would share a little schmooze.

Wendy, 1977-1994

When we lived in the country, we had a little black schnauzer named Wendy. Sometimes when she was asleep on the porch, I would sneak off into the woods and call her name. Because I had thinned the trees, I could see her from quite a distance as she jumped up excitedly and started searching for my track. After she found it, it was a small matter for her to come to the tree I was in, but once there, she NEVER thought to look up, but would instead go round and round the tree trying to figure out where I went next. She would eventually give up, and not knowing what else to do, follow my scent all the way back to the house and start out again. When that didn't work, she would do sweeps that took in several acres. Eventually, I would sneak down from the tree, and we would share a joyous reunion.

The older Wendy got, the more she went from being submissive to standing up for for what she considered her rights. For example, she would balk at giving up her seat next to me in the car. The day came when Wendy completely refused to give her seat, even to Peggy. When a human tried to get in anyway, Wendy would push against him or her with all thirteen pounds of her schnauzerly might. I mostly left it up to my passenger to deal with the situation, but when a man whom I had just met asked if he should sit in the back, I made her move, although I believe that, in most situations, non-humans should be shown the same consideration as humans.

In Mississippi, we lived fifty miles from Peggy's parents (her father had by then retired from the Air Force), and would often go up and spend the night. They didn't want dogs in their house, and I didn't go anywhere without my dog. In summer, I felt good about making Wendy a bed on their patio because flea season in Mississippi is no joke. However, Wendy would have been miserable outdoors on a mild night in winter, and her very life would have been endangered on a cold night in winter, so Peggy's parents grudgingly agreed to let her stay in the laundry room. She interpreted her confinement as punishment, and remained in a state of near frantic despondency through every visit. If I had it to do over, I would have given my inlaws a choice between either allowing Wendy into the den--which opened into the laundry room--or of Peggy visiting them alone.

Later on when we lived in Minneapolis, I dutifully put Wendy's coat on and took her for a walk everyday in winter although she so hated going that she would run up to the front door of every house we passed hoping someone would let her in. If I had that to do over, I would only take her walking on windless, sunny days.

Despite the fact that Peggy has since come to adore cats, she used to be a self-proclaimed cat-hater, and was even plagued by dreams of being pursued by demonic cats. One rainy wintry day, a wet, shivering, and hungry mother cat came to Peggy in distress (during her cat hating period, cats regularly sought Peggy's companionship). I don't remember the details, but suffice it to say that, "cat-hater" though she was, Peggy did what she could to help that cat and her kittens. If Peggy had said, "I'm not going to help that cat because I hate cats," I would have wondered how this woman who I married all those many years ago could have been heartless all along without me knowing it.

Wendy and me
Wendy visited more states than most people. She hung-out in communes, witnessed a lot of sex and drug use, regularly flew with me in my small Cessna, spent her days at construction sites when I was a re-modeler and on roofs when I was a roofer. We hitchhiked together, having the misfortune one wintry day of having to walk most of the twenty interstate miles between Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Tallulah, Louisiana. When Paul Winter invited his audience to howl at an outdoor concert at a former Shaker community in New Lebanon, New York, Wendy joined in, but when Paul signaled that it was time to stop, Wendy didn't get the message. People who were seated nearby smiled as they watched her throw herself into her music, while people at a distance craned their necks trying to determine who was being rude.

Wendy loved Peggy, but she only felt secure with me. One day, I left her and Peggy at a friend's home while I drove to the store. On my way back, I met Wendy walking up the road looking for me. A few months earlier, she had done the same thing when I left her with some other friends, but Peggy hadn't been there that time. Despite her devotion to me, if I--or anyone else--tried to pet Wendy, she would move just out of reach and lie back down. I had imagined that the only dogs that avoided the touch of humans were dogs who were afraid of humans, but Wendy wasn't afraid of people (cats were another story). That said, she took a long time to become friends with people despite the considerable effort that a lot of them made to hurry her along.

Bonnie. Soft name. Hard dog.
Our last dog was a blue heeler named Bonnie, who, like Wendy, didn't make friends easily. However, Bonnie did something that Wendy never once did, and that was to bite people. I was out walking with Bonnie one day when a woman who was working in her yard came over and asked if she could pet her. I warned her that Bonnie would bite, but like many people, the woman took my warning as a challenge. She asked if she could try to win Bonnie over with bologna, and I said, sure, but I didn't think it would work.

The woman looked at me like I didn't know much about dogs (she had probably heard the saying about a dog not biting the hand that feeds it), so she got a piece of bologna and tore it into small pieces, which Bonnie happily took one at a time from her hand. When the meat was all gone, the woman slowly reached out her fingers in the direction of Bonnie's head, and I could hear Bonnie's teeth clacking together a millimeter short of the rapidly retreating hand that fed her. That woman looked as if she couldn't believe what had just happened, but no one could win Bonnie over that easily, although she was extraordinarily loving around people she liked. I've had many dogs over the years, and I always told myself that I wouldn't keep a dog that would bite, but not only would Bonnie bite, she would bite me, yet if I ever adored a dog, Bonnie was that dog, partly because she had a pronounced sense of dignity and a pronounced intelligence to go with it. More about her later.


Elephant's Child said...

I am the evicter of spiders in our home. I tend to take them outside rather than kill them.
We had a cat who hunted them. And ate them. He didn't like the drumsticks though and always spat the legs out.
Sadly it was a spider that killed him in the end. He captured a red-back spider and it obviously bit him before it died.
I miss that cat still.

Snowbrush said...

"I am the evicter of spiders in our home. I tend to take them outside rather than kill them."

For years I took them outside, but finally had to admit that if they didn't get back in, their progeny would, and so to be effective, I would need to take them far away. I must admit that I also felt concern about getting bit. Finally, I lost some of my earlier idealism.

I was going to email the following to you, but since I have other bibliophile readers who might enjoy it, I'll just put it here. It's from a 1903 novel that I only started last night. Its title is, "The Bondage of Ballinger" by Roswell Field, and it's about the life of a bibliomanic. The speaker is his bibliophile father, and the listener is his son whose compulsion is not yet evident. It goes: "Thomas, in the general reckoning, you have fifty good years ahead of you. Think of that, my boy! Fifty glorious years for collecting and reading books. Now is the time to begin the accumulation of those delights that will be a blessing to your fading days..." I thought it sad to spell things out that way. It's a little like me looking at my shelves quite a lot of years ago and realizing that I would die before I got all of my books read. I soon started weeding them out, but when I got interested in fiction (for the first time really), a few years later, I had to buy a lot of new ones, or rather old ones. My copy of the book I quoted from has the following inscription in it, "Edna E. Near" and then, "A Christmas gift from my Mother--given me about 1912--selected by my brother, Aaron Peek."

"He captured a red-back spider and it obviously bit him before it died."

How sad. The poisonous ones in my area are the black widow and the brown recluse, with the latter being the more dangerous. When I think of Australia, I think of a land that has a lot of things that will kill a person, and however true or false this is in general, perhaps it's that way with spiders. I worry about Scully, but what am I to do... She's an indoor cat, and we keep a tidy house, so maybe she won't come to the sad end of your kitty. I looked at a red-black on Wikipedia and read that it's "highly venomous." The entry for the black widow and the brown recluse just said that they have "medically significant venom." I've seen photos of what that venom can do, and it's horrible to contemplate.

"I miss that cat still."

And always will. Peggy still cries over Wendy and Bonnie, although the former died in 1993 and the latter in 2012. While I don't cry, I share the feeling.

Emma Springfield said...

What a delightful post. I would enjoy watching the cat play with the spider. The remembrances of your pets were truly joyous.

Elephant's Child said...

Love that quote. Thank you. I almost certainly won't read all of the books in our house, but will die trying. We do have some vicious beasties, but most of them would prefer to be left alone. We certainly have red-backs here (I think most houses In Australia do) but their webs are very distinctive and easy to identify. I don't think we have ever had one inside the house. Medlyn (the cat in question) caught the red-back on the veranda.

kylie said...

I had a blue heeler cross long ago. She had a hatred of fluffy white dogs and was sometimes snappy with people. Somebody told me that as a cattle dog, she was bred to snap at the heels of cattle. There could have been some truth in that but she was a rescue and who knows what had happened to her. The day we picked her up she was so thin we thought she was a funny looking greyhound.

What do you mean you wont get out of bed to kill spiders? surely that is the number one duty of a husband?

Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard the word brindled but it's been a long time. It certainly wasn't common around my area of the south.

Marion said...

Love the pics of you and your pets along with your great storytelling. I've never seen a live spider in the house...but there are 4 cats living here. They pounce on anything that moves, especially me. I have a scratch by my eye where one got me in the middle of the night. It was a full moon, a time when they (we) all go nuts. The hunter, Garfield, likes to pat me on the face to try to wake me up to play...and he got a little too frisky with his claws. I can't imagine a life without pets. Hope you're feeling better, Snow. xo

rhymeswithplague said...

A thoroughly enjoyable post. I learned all about your various pets, marveled at your prowess with spiders, discovered you owned and flew a Cessna, and got a glimpse of your magnificent self back in your glory days. I am thoroughly heterosexual, you understand, but if I had been a woman living in that polyamorous house in Minneapolis I would have found you very attractive.

Snowbrush said...

"The remembrances of your pets were truly joyous."

Thank you. I don't know why but your comment brought up the following...

What's sad to me about having cats is that dogs love nothing better than going out into the world with their humans and having adventures, and this is what makes them both a joy and a burden. A joy because if I have a dog, I have a loyal and intimate friend with whom to share my life all day everyday; and a burden because dogs face a lot of prejudice simply because they are dogs (as with Peggy's parents not wanting Wendy inside their house), and because, here in the city, they are always at risk of attack by other dogs (I had two pitbulls attack my dogs within a month, but was able to beat one of them--a young female--off with my fists before a mortal wound had been inflicted, and to thwart the second attack with pepper spray before contact was made.

With cats, we (Peggy and I) have escaped nearly all of the burden of having dogs except for the fact that we're still tied-down when it comes to taking overnight trips. Yet, truth be known, we've lost a lot of the joy of having dogs because the two species are too unalike for one to substitute for the other. In my experience, dogs are animals whose primary gift to humanity is affection and interaction, while the primary gift that cats bring into our lives is that have the privilege of sharing our our homes with an beautiful, exotic, and mysterious species, a species that is a joy to touch and a joy to observe.

As I see it, the primary difference, where humans are concerned, between dogs and cats is that dogs need us emotionally while, for cats, friendship with human beings is optional. I believe that if I were so perverse as to provide amply for my three cats physical needs but to give them no attention whatsoever, they would soon adjust to my emotional withdrawal and be fine because they would have one another for companionship. If I did the same thing with a dog, the dog would spend every waking hour desperately wondering why I didn't love him or her. Despite the fact that their independence and their lack of interest in going out into the world with us makes cats less trouble, for me to take either animal home is a sobering endeavor because I know that if the animal has a good life, I deserve most of the credit, but if he or she has a miserable life, I am to blame.

"What do you mean you wont get out of bed to kill spiders"

I want to, of course, but what with us men dying ahead of our wives, I feel the need to prepare her for widowhood by forcing her to occasionally kill her own spiders (I had better add that I am joking).

Winifred said...

What a lovely post. Thankfully we have no nasty spiders here in the UK well not ones that are poisonous. I just hate them but not enough to kill them.
Our first cat Tom liked nothing better than playing with them then having them as a snack. The next ones were frightened of them! Now my husband has to pick them up and put them outside! Well they do keep the flies away.
Lovely photos Snow. Hope you are keeping well.

All Consuming said...

Impossible not to feel really sorry for the tortured spiders! It's all just a matter of scale you know *laughs*. But it is. I used to freak out at them and I used to kill them and moths because it was a very fight or flight reflex I had and flight meant they might still find me again. Then I worked on the problem on purpose and now I get hubby to catch anything crawling (outside of drunkards) around the house or flying and set it free in the garden. And I can leave be small versions of anything apart from cockroaches. Let's hope God isn't a huge spider for Peggy's sake. Hahahahaha. I'm only pulling your leg sweetie (not off mind as that would be cruel).

Sounds like Wendy had a more interesting life than I have, and good to her, for she had the best 'Pa' ever to care for her I have no doubt. Lardy was less affectionate than Rosie, it was entirely when she felt like it, whereas although Rosie will head off to her bed eventually, she always wants cuddles when possible, and I really enjoy that about her. Lardy liked to sit on my foot often so that she had the comfort of knowing I was there which was sweet. I still have all my toes too.

Lovely post as Winifred said, I especially like the photo of you and Wendy. I'm getting there on the email front, love to you Xxx

Snowbrush said...

"Somebody told me that as a cattle dog, she was bred to snap at the heels of cattle."

They snap at the heels of cattle or hogs--sheep being too delicate. Bonnie would clearly become distressed if much space got between the members of her group. For instance, if Peggy and I went hiking with one another or with friends, she wanted everyone to stay together. I've heard of herd dogs making an all out effort to herd everyone at a party into the same room, but she didn't go that far. She would snap at heels and hands, and she went from being, as a young dog, the life of the party among the dogs of the neighborhood to being unsafe around around other dogs. She knew better than to hurt our schnauzer, Baxter, but I couldn't trust her at all around other dogs. One thing I learned from her was that bite strength differs dramatically among the different breeds. Bonnie hated taking pills, and I had figurd on prying her jaws open and forcing them down, but her jaws were so strong that I was afraid that even if I succeeded, I would injure her. By contrast, schnauzers' jaws are so weak that I shouldn't think that a schnauzer (a miniature schnauzer anyway) could hurt a person much even if he or she tried, although neither of my two schnauzers never once tried to bite anyone.

" [The word brindled] certainly wasn't common around my area of the south."

Arkansas? Does this mean that you heard the word "tabby"? White people in Arkansas are nearly all of English stock as are white people in Mississippi, so I'm surprised to learn this. In fact, I'm wondering if you were around cats enough to hear either word used.

"I've never seen a live spider in the house..."'

I would guess that you're not afraid of spiders because I would bet the farm that they're there (especially given that you life in subtropical Louisiana), and would interpret the fact that you haven't seen them to mean that you don't consider them worthy of notice. I mean I could go in a house and not even notice the color of the walls (although I think it likely that I would notice a corpse with a hand-axe sticking out of his forehead), so it's not like selective vision doesn't happen.

Snowbrush said...

"if I had been a woman living in that polyamorous house in Minneapolis I would have found you very attractive."

Why thank you. Peggy read your comment last night and was laughing about it this morning, but I just now learned what you had written. Funny you would mention Minnesota because that photo would have been made there.

"Thankfully we have no nasty spiders here in the UK well not ones that are poisonous."

There are different ones in different parts of the US with most of the poisonous ones being so reclusive that if you stay out from under houses and wear gloves when moving piles of lumber or firewood, you'll be unlikely to have a problem. Oregon is relatively free of poisonous spiders but because they can get here in so many ways, one can never assume they're not around. The ones that I mentioned cause your flesh to rot and the rot to spread, so although they rarely kill people, they can certainly make you wish you were dead and leave you scarred for life. The most visually impressive spiders in the US are the tarantulas, but they're not supposed to be the most dangerous, and they're mostly limited to the Southwest (I've seen none in Oregon, and I only saw one in Mississippi, and I assumed that it must have been someone's lost or abandoned pet--it sure scared the bejesus out of Peggy). In Mississippi, we had the very beautiful gardens spiders that, like many of things I left behind when I left the South, I will always miss.

"Sounds like Wendy had a more interesting life than I have..."

She was on the go anytime I was, and I was on the go a lot. I felt sorry for my cats (and for myself, come to think of it) while writing this post because their lives--as indoor-only cats--would seem so sad and boring compared to the lives of many of my dogs, but if they're unhappy, it doesn't show, and I can attest to the fact that if there's one thing that cats hate, it's going places. When we got Brewsky, I imagined that I would take him on errands with me and that he would come to enjoy it, but he so clearly hated leaving home that I gave up. All of our cats appear to be very well-adjusted to the indoor life, and will rarely step outdoors even if a door is left open for several minutes. They spend 16 hours of every day sleeping, most of the rest of their time bathing, a little time playing with one another, a little time looking out the windows (they're previously entranced by the hummingbirds at our feeder) and a few minutes eating. I wouldn't be surprised but what they consider it a busy life.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. To Rhymes with Plague. I don't know if fellow Mississippian Jimmy Rogers was writing of a poly-felicitous relationship in his 1932 song "Long Tall Mama Blues" ( but I can assure you that my relationship was nothing like the one he sang about. In fact, mine was more like being a boy spider in a web of girl spiders. You might recall that Jimmie Rogers died of TB in 1934 in a NYC recording studio when he had continued to sing until shortly before his death. He was the first popular singer to get rich off his music. If I were to guess, I would speculate that you and Charles know of him, but I rather doubt that any of my other commenters do.

"I've got a little mama, Got a long, tall mama too
I've got a little mama, Got a long, tall mama too;
I ain't a goin' to tell my little mama
What my long, tall mama can do.

"She rubbed my back with alcohol, Just to cure my cough
She rubbed my back with alcohol, Just to cure my cough;
Lawd, I like to break my neck
Tryin' to lick the alcohol off.

"When it comes meal time, I can't eat a bite
When it comes meal time, I can't eat a bite;
Wond'ring which mama is goin' to be just too tight.

"My little mama is good but she's too darn stout
My little mama is good, lawdy, but she's too darn stout;
She put ashes in her bed just to keep from slippin' out.

"If you treat a woman rough, It makes her hang around
Brother treat 'em rough, they'll always hang around;
She comes right back for mo'
With her little head bowed down.

"I'm a square shootin' papa, one of the "do right" kind
I'm a square shootin' papa, one of the "do right" kind;
All my woman love me
Cause I'm always there on time."

joared said...

Enjoyed your creature tales.....tails(?) .....always thought of myself as a dog person as had several when I was young. Also, recall an old hound dog my brother had once that he wanted to go hunting with. Dog with some crazy name I can't recall now, got on the trail of a rabbit one afternoon as we sat on an opposite hillside. We had a laughing good time watching him run bellowing down the trail as the rabbit disappeared, he lost sight or scent, but then after making small circles found the scent again, but simply back-tracked with fresh bellows down the trail to where he started. That's what he'd done the night before when my bro had taken him hunting for some other animal -- got the trail, but then back-tracked bellering like he was fresh on the trail.

I'm not a spider fan either nor was my daughter. She would call her younger brother to save her whenever she encountered one -- even waking him from a sound sleep. He would arise to her defense I only learned in recent years. He would carefully trap them alive in some manner and release them outdoors.

My husband and I, too, was seduced by a wild mama cat who presented us with kittens -- one of which we kept, hauling it all over the country with us when we moved.

Myrna R. said...

I love how you love and respect animals. It's so nice how you write about them and describe each one's idiosyncrasies.
It's nice to drop in again. I've posted sporadically lately and haven't gotten to visit all my old friends. Hope you're feeling better.

PhilipH said...

My Pat is arachnophobia personified. She is terrified of even the smallest creepy-crawly and screams when she sees a long-legged house spider running across the floor. It's quite a difficult time for her now that this seems to be the time that more spiders are busy working away at their web-building in the gardens and their indoor relations are hiding away in the house.

I think we have just ONE spider that can give a bite, it's known here as a "False Widow Spider". I've never yet seen one. As far as I know the female is a bit bigger than the male and her bite is more severe.
I simply tread on any intruder or, if the spider is on the wall, use a spider-catcher gadget that we've had for some years.

Perhaps it's "built-in" to we humans, (or many of us) to be wary of arachnids - and when one learns of some of the more venomous species I can see why.

Snowbrush said...

"I'm not a spider fan either nor was my daughter."

Females have more phobias. Here's a short article about phobias in women:

"I love how you love and respect animals."

Thank you. I'm glad you visited. I too haven't been visited blogs much for quite some time, although I feel very guilty about it.

Philip, here's what Wikipedia says about the "false widow spider":

"In England it has a reputation as one of the few local spider species which is capable of inflicting a painful bite to humans, with most bites resulting in symptoms similar to a bee or wasp sting."

My question for you is do you have bees and wasps in the UK?

PhilipH said...

Of course we do, thank goodness!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I am very behind in following your posts. Sorry.We have had our mix of animals and I love dogs the most. The cat currently with us for 6 years is always distant. She is very strange. Cuddles aere most rare.