A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


For most of the past half-century, Mother Nature and I have had this understanding: her creatures leave me alone, I leave them alone.

For the most part, we’ve both managed to maintain our respective ends of the bargain.  Aside from one bee sting, one minor dog bite and a run-in with a crazy Arabian horse named – appropriately – Crazy, my life has been relatively free from beastly entanglements.  And if you don’t count a brief childhood foray into grasshopper experimentation and three small rainbow trout that somehow found the shriveled worm on my hook too tempting to resist, I’ve managed to maintain a fairly amicable relationship with all creatures great and small.

Until recently.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning up some stuff in the garage when I noticed something shiny and black on the ground out of the corner of my eye – and it was moving.


On eight legs.

In my view, something that moves quickly on eight legs is never a good thing to see – especially not in my garage.  But when it is shiny and black and has bright red – you might even say “blood red” – markings on its back . . . well, it is cause for alarm.

Which, of course, I sounded.  Boisterously.

“We have a black widow in our garage!” I screamed.  I’m not sure if anyone heard me, since I was standing on the roof by the time the words finally escaped my mouth.

Hey, I don’t know how sensitive black widows are to the deranged ramblings of arachnophobic old men.  And I didn’t want to take a chance of . . . you know . . . upsetting her.  At least, not as long as she was within range to do to me what she did to her late husband.

Eventually I made my way back down to the garage.  I carefully, cautiously crept toward the corner to which she had scampered.  Sure enough, there was a large, delicately constructed web (note to self: clean garage more often!), and she was perched squarely in the middle of it.  As soon as I took a step toward her, however, she scrambled off the web, across the floor and under the garage baseboard.

Well, I wasn’t going to poke around under there.  And while I waited for her to come out again, I started thinking.  I mean, it’s not like we had anything of value in that corner of the garage.  And it’s not like we ever went over there.  If we left her alone, I was sure she would leave us alone.  Maybe.

So I warned my teenage children and my wife that we had a black widow in that corner of the garage, and told them that if we left her alone she would leave us alone.  Probably.

But then Sammie Jo came over.  Sammie is our youngest grandchild, and at age 2 has developed a mind and will entirely her own.  As far as she is concerned, “no” is just a pit stop on her way to going wherever she wants to go.  So when she wandered toward that part of the garage and I told her “no,” I knew that that is precisely where she would go the next time she got the chance.  That’s just the way it works with Sammie.

Which meant that the black widow had to go.  Immediately.  That night I went out to the garage with my flashlight, my hard hat (in case it jumped or attacked or something) and my plastic baseball bat, and I did what I had to do.  I’ve tried to blot out the details because . . . well, I still have to go into that garage.  But no matter how scary it was, I did it.  Turns out there are a lot of things you’re willing to do for your family that you would never do otherwise.

Understandings notwithstanding.

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— © Joseph Walker

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