The tie ends of my swim suit top tickled my back as I swam. With the daytime temperature approaching 100°F, I had opted for a two piece swim suit for my pool time. It was going to be a perfect day for a relaxing 20 minute workout, as I pretended I was on a tropical vacation, gliding safely along against the machine generated current in my 9 by 17 foot backyard swimming pool.
Before the swim, I had used the skimming net to do a little cleaning. Even though the pool is covered most of the time, it is not unusual for flies, bees, and other various insects to be found floating. When the pool is open, I have seen wasps hover and drink. So, I was only a little irritated when I felt another, different tickle on my lower back. I didn’t want to interrupt my swim, but I didn’t want to get stung. I brushed it away with a slight alteration in my freestyle swim stroke, and kept swimming.
When it happened again a couple minutes later, I brushed it away more emphatically. This broke more completely into my previously relaxed state of mind. I began to have strong recollections of swimming amongst sea creatures while snorkeling, as well as being startled by a large fish while wading in crocodile habitat in Costa Rica. I glanced around, still swimming, into the clear blue water of my pool, telling myself not to be silly. I was in my backyard. In Idaho. There were no sharks or barracuda in there with me! I continued swimming, periodically checking my progress on my underwater timer. 20 minutes went by and I was done.
As I got out of the pool, something caught my eye. It seemed to be crawling along the bottom of the pool. I focused on it and saw it was a spider with a leg span the diameter of a silver dollar.
At first, I was just mesmerized by it’s size; and the fact that it was moving its legs. Then, I remembered three other people in the family had told me of huge spider sightings in the last couple of days, two in the house and one on the driveway at night. I had believed them, but I was still in awe.
All of a sudden it jerked in my direction and I realized that that must have been what was on my back! I had seen a “leaf” attached to the side of the pool at water level when I had gotten in, but I hadn’t taken time to toss it out right then. Recalling the image in my mind’s eye, I could see that I should have been more suspicious of the “leaf’s” legs…
Now, I was totally creeped out and had to figure out how to get it out of the pool. I ran dripping wet into the house, yelling to dear husband who was working in his office. After shouting out his name wildly a couple of times, I decided I should add that it was not an emergency, but it almost was. He emerged smiling and followed me out as I explained the situation at a hundred miles an hour, punctuated with concerns about swelling up and dying from spider bites. He was mildly impressed with the spider’s size, having recently seen one himself, but he did not have any suggestions for me. He thought most spiders can swim for a while pretty well, asked if it swam the same stroke as me; and with that he amiably went back to work.
I sat on the edge of the swimming pool calling to him half despairingly, half exasperated at his lack of concern. When he was obviously out of earshot, I kept exclaiming rather frantically, as sort of a useless self-therapy to deal with the situation. “It was SO big!” “I couldn’t get in there with it!” “It was moving again!” I kept looking at the spider, then looking at the skimming net, which I had completely forgotten had a long handle that I could attach to it. The only option I saw was hand-to-spiderclaw combat.
My adult son happened to be working in the yard a couple hundred feet away. He finally took pity on me and sauntered over to ask if I would like some help. I immediately remembered the long handle, which he hooked up to the net and set to business capturing the spider. He acknowledged that it was one of the larger spiders he had ever seen, telling me it was a wolf spider. I knew this whole reintroduction of wolves into Idaho was not a good idea.
The wolf spider lay flat and crumpled on the bottom of the skimming net, revealing to us that it had only been a lifeless puppet at the mercy of the water. Upon closer examination, my son concluded that it had been dead for a while, so I was not at risk for dying of spider bites from it.
Somewhat comforted by this, I headed to shower in my recently remodeled basement bathroom. Unfortunately, this was one place where one of the spider’s huge cousins had been killed in the middle of the night by my husband. I scanned every corner and maintained surveillance on furniture nooks and crannies. A few hours later, I am still noticing this one spot on my back with a persistent tickle.