I was four-and-a-half years old and fascinated with spiders, grasshoppers, and all creepy-crawlies in general. I particularly loved spiders, and thought they were pretty--especially garden spiders with their yellow and black abdomens and gigantic webs.
One morning, I went outside and made a beeline to the water meter because I was hoping to find some slugs to play with. There were almost always slugs there, and I was high on anticipation. I stuck my finger in the hole in the lid and pulled. The lid was stuck. So I tried again, pulling with all my strength. No luck :-(
Being the determined optimist I am, I looked around and found a rake with a handle that would fit in the hole. So I jammed it in and lifted the lid off. No slugs! I was disappointed, but only momentarily. Much to my surprise and delight, on the underside of the lid, just an inch or so from where I had placed my finger was a gigantic black widow! I knew immediately what I had encountered, and was struck by how shiny and pretty she was.
I knew black widows were poisonous, so I did what any other normal four-year-old boy would have done. I ran inside, got an empty mayonnaise jar, and ran back to the water meter. The spider hadn't moved. Excellent!
I didn't want to get bitten (Duh! They're poisonous!), so I found a stick roughly two feet long, opened the jar, and touched the spider. Immediately, it came racing up the stick so fast I thought it might get me and I would be dead. Reacting quickly, I tapped the stick against the rim of the jar. Success! The spider was in the jar! Not wanting to give her the chance to escape, I screwed the lid on as fast as I could. The spider had left a web in her wake, and I was quite surprised by how strong it was. (Years later I would learn that they use black widow webbing to make the cross-hairs in rifle scopes.)
Man! What a pretty spider! I bet Mommy would be impressed!
So I traipsed inside to show my poor mother my prize.
"Look, Mommy! See what I found!"
Her eyes widened with panic and all the blood drained from her face.
"James! Are you OK? Did it bite you?"
"I'm OK. It didn't bite me."
"Are you sure? Are sure it didn't bite you?"
Why does she keep asking me if it bit me. I already said it didn't.
"No, Mommy. It didn't bite me. See how pretty it is?"
I can only imagine what must have been going through my dear mother's head. At the time I was disappointed that she wasn't more impressed that I had caught this dangerous spider all by myself. What was wrong with her!? Didn't she get it? I had caught a black widow! I was pretty hot stuff!
I left my prize on the counter. The next morning I woke up to find the poor spider floating in half a jar of water. Someone had murdered my beloved pet!
For years I thought my parents had done the sensible thing and killed the dangerous creature. Wrong. My older brother, who was nearly six at the time, was jealous of my accomplishment and had done her in.