When Hubs and I arrived at Big Bend National Park the last week of September, a park ranger enthusiastically told us that the tarantulas were “on the move” this year.
Translation: Big furry spiders had decided to temporarily inhabit the Chisos Basin campground.
As you’ll recall from my previous stories about our annual camping trip to Big Bend, Hubs and I have contended with javelinas, which were determined to root underneath our tent while we were sleeping in it. Last year, skunks invaded the campground and showed off their skills in unzipping tents. (Not ours, thankfully. But some of our neighbors got sprayed.) At one point, while using the solar shower, I looked down and discovered that I was bathing with a skunk.
I have a fondness for the javelina, which appear more comical than threatening. (Unless they’re trying to rip open a tent while you are in it.)
And I eventually decided that skunks, namely last year’s nightly visitor, Maxwell, were actually kind of cute.
But giant hairy spiders?
I would sooner take on a bear.
Normally we see maybe one or two tarantulas at the park. This year — they were everywhere.
Now I grew up out in the Texas countryside, where tarantulas, scorpions and rattlesnakes were common.
But at some point in my youth, I watched Kingdom of the Spiders, a 1970s horror movie about tarantulas that take over a farming town, where they swarm and kill people. *shudder*
(In real life, no, their bites don’t kill people. But as far as I’m concerned, just the sight of hairy spiders approaching en masse would likely cause many people to suffer a coronary.)
The first night, we watched a tarantula creep across our campsite. Hubs, who is equally NOT fond of spiders, trotted over to our unwanted guest and, crouching down, began taking its photo.
The tarantula objected, rising up on its back legs and waving the front ones at Hubs. Then it charged.
“Aaaiiiieee!” yelled my normally quite manly husband as he galloped backward. I about fell out of my camp chair laughing.
The next night, I regretted mocking my spouse.
At Big Bend, there’s no cell service. So in order to call my parents and check on the kids, I have to use an old pay phone by one of the campground bathrooms.
Now picture this scene:
I — already dressed in comfy PJs and clutching a Solo cup of bourbon and Coke — walked the brief distance from our campsite to the phone.
On the way, I encountered a tarantula, but simply veered left and kept going.
Minutes later, as I chatted with my mom, I happened to glance out of the phone booth and noticed that the tarantula had followed me.
“Um. Hang on a minute, Mom,” I said, giggling nervously.
I opened the door and tried to shoo the creepy thing away. My fear was that it would try to join me in the phone booth, via the nice gap between the walls and ground.
The spider, however, refused to budge.
Rather valiantly, I tried to ignore the nasty thing and continued talking to my mother.
When I glanced out again, it was gone.
But before I could finish breathing a sigh of relief, I noticed that it had merely moved to the other side of the phone booth.
“Hang on,” I said again.
This time, I opened the door and tossed a couple of pebbles just to the left of the tarantula, hoping to frighten it away.
Which is when it came closer.
At this point, I left the phone dangling and ran back down to the campsite, cussing and sloshing bourbon the entire way.
“I need you to come stand guard and keep an eye on a tarantula,” I informed my startled spouse.
Hubs accompanied me back to the phone booth, and I continued my conversation.
Which was rather difficult to do because by now, Hubs was offering a rather loud and detailed lecture on the habits of tarantulas to a group of campers who had gathered to help watch my tormentor.
Minutes later, the camp host arrived.
“What is going on?” he asked.
“I’m watching this tarantula while my wife uses the phone,” Hubs replied, as if this were a perfectly normal sort of spousal activity.
The camp host’s head swiveled in my direction. So did those of the other campers.
I waved sheepishly.
Hubs and I soon returned to our campsite.
I had just sat down with a fresh drink when Hubs jabbed me, laughed and pointed.
My furry friend had followed us back from the phone.
Tomorrow: More tales from the Big Bend…