A few of our friends have heard this story already, the one about the wolf spider. Have you ever heard of a wolf spider? We hadn’t, until we moved to our home in the El Cerrito hills and began digging into the hillside. We obviously disturbed their homes and probably terrified the heck out of them. And they, in turn, frightened us.
At the time, and this would be 1991-2, we had two young children and were still knocking into each other and stepping on toys in the tiniest house ever. Construction was underway outside on the upper lot. We awoke to the roaring, crunchy sounds of backhoes excavating and the shrill whirr of giant drills drilling. They were working on the 32 holes, 12 feet deep mandated by the Building Department for our two-story addition. Down, down into the earth they sank their cogs and bits, and the poor wolf spiders, and probably more fauna such as gophers and mice, fled no doubt in great confusion and terror.
Soon after the digging began, the wolf spiders started to visit us in our home. They appeared singly, thank goodness, but were so huge that I could hardly breathe when I saw one. I would estimate their size to be equal to half the palm of my hand, with long, thick hairy legs stretching outward. They were mostly dark brown or black, but I spotted a light gray one once. One day Steve actually slipped a jar over one of them, covered the jar with a hole-poked lid, and had Adam trot it down to Madera School so that his teacher, Ms. Schooly (just ran into her recently) could identify it. It was a wolf spider, they are related to tarantulas (no kidding!), and they don’t build webs, she informed us. They live in the ground, lie in wait and pounce on their prey, usually bugs.
The clincher to this backdrop follows: One night the kids were asleep, the sitter went home, the toys were spread out all over the livingroom floor. Steve spotted what he thought was a big rubber spider and picked it up. Once it was in the palm of his hand, he realized…..it was the real thing. Yup, a wolf spider had placed itself cunningly in the midst of children’s toys and assumed a toylike stillness. Steve dropped the spider and shuddered, and to this day we both shudder at the memory. Luckily, the sneaky arachnid chose not to bite Steve. Maybe this one was smart enough to know that in Steve’s hand he was a houseguest, not a predator.