We set a time and place to meet in the squirrel woods across the road from my house, and up the road from his. We wanted to hunt early, while the squirrels were most active, so we decided to meet at first light at the big oak that stood at the center of that part of the woods. We knew it to be a den tree, and to contain more than one family of squirrels.
Active imagination and youthful anticipation kept sleep at bay, so I got up early and dressed. I packed a lunch and my hunting vest and took out, still too dark to see anything but the stars still twinkling overhead. The walk to the big oak was less than a half mile from the house, but I just couldn’t wait at home, so I decided to walk on over, and just wait for Roger at the tree.
Down the drive, maybe 100 yards east down the gravel road, then north in the neighbor’s drive. I would follow that drive up to the creek, then head west to the wood line. I followed the wood line north through a pasture, then a grassy opening, until I arrived at the small opening that led to the big oak.
It was still dark when I arrived at the opening, and even darker inside the wood beneath the fall canopy that had not yet fallen. I decided to sit at the base of a small cottonwood and wait for dawn. I sat on my vest, and cradled the Browning between my knees, barrel straight up.
When I awoke, the sun was up and Roger was yelling for me. He hadn’t seen me, nor I him. As sleep faded and the haziness turned to sharp focus, I saw them. Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands…
In the wee hours of that morning, some kind of spider invasion had happened while I slept. Garden spiders were everywhere, as far as I could see. They were on my boots; my pants; a web was under construction between the cottonwood and my gun barrel. Above my head.
I jumped up, dropped the Browning, and brushed my clothes. No, I beat my clothes as if I were on fire while screaming like a schoolgirl.
When I was sure that I was not about to die from spider poison, and that arachnids had not taken residence in my hair or laid eggs in my inner ears, I stopped to evaluate.
Vest, gone. Stripped when I realized I was not on fire and that it had lots of pockets.
Jacket, gone. Again, pockets.
Hat, gone. I used it for a while to beat the spiders to death. Lost it while running and screaming like a schoolgirl.
Dang… it was still in the twilight zone…. on the ground…. Dad would not be pleased.
It took a few minutes to gather my wits and return to the meadow and retrieve my hunting clothes and gun. Carefully, I picked up a dead tree limb to use in defense against the marauding spiders. A very long tree limb.
Eventually I gathered my clothes and my gun, and met Roger under the tree. He had heard me screaming, but did not see the garden of spiders. I don’t think he believed me, either.
I was too busy looking toward the ground.