The air is holding the dampness of late summer while the stars shine their clean light through a blue night that is as crisp as an autumn apple. The vultures are roosting high in the oaks and maples at the edges of the forest. Throngs of tourists have thinned as the last pumpkins patches have been picked clean and the leaves have surrendered their vibrant crimsons and solar yellows and settled into the more serene shades of browns and maroons. Geese have been a common sight in their flightpaths southward. Our local deer have begun to take on their thicker, shaggier coat to ward off the biting cold that waits in the coming months. Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
Another signal of winter harkening is the return of the barking spider. Although this tiny and mostly invisible anthropod calls our little town home the year round, his calls will be heard most frequently as the climate cools and we all spend a little more of our time indoors. His distinctive calls will echo in our bathrooms and sneak out from under our sheets at night; they will interrupt an otherwise promising first date, and will seem to follow your children around wherever they go.
Although known to frequent senior center TV rooms and high school locker rooms, the barking spider can also occasionally be heard butting in on Sunday’s sermon from the third or fourth pew from the back, or on line at the grocery store, causing many heads to turn to see if they can nose out the exact location of the pesky intruder.
Like the great grizzly bear, he is a loner, and prefers the comfort of solitude. When taken by surprise, however, he can release his trademark growl – a fiery rip like an industrial-sized zipper being pulled open. Adept at hiding in plain view, the barking spider will sound his triumphant call proudly in the privacy of his own home. And while in public places he will do his best to mute his song like a velvet hand, it often escapes like an iron fist, betraying his hiding place in one regrettable toot.
Consider yourself lucky if you find yourself face to face with the barking spider, because though his shriek might bring to mind a wild boar grunting its way through the wild everglades, most will prefer the fearsome sound to his smaller cousin, the “silent-but-deadly.”