Tim was a slender man. He was also a relaxed individual. Possibly because of this laid back style his keen intellect could catch people off guard. Sometimes people just assume that mellow people are also slow thinking. Tim was quite good at analyzing situations. However, when given the chance he was a proponent of making people do stupid things until they figured out what was happening. Wherever he went he was followed by an air of self-aware, and slightly shy, absurdity.
Tim worked with me up on the ranch for a little while. One of our projects when on the ranch was building a house. The site of our proto-house was nestled in the mountains south of the main ranch house. The idea was that this small cabin, when completed, could house the main ranch hand as well as a guest or two when needed. I particularly liked this project because it allowed me to proudly (and unusually truthfully) declare one of those “life goal” things, that I had “built a house.”
One hot day Tim and I volunteered to put the insulation on the bottom of the house. This task involved crawling into the two foot high space under the house. Once under the house one would drag in a bunch of insulation and lie on one’s back stapling it to the boards above.
For the most part, the crawl-space under the house was sealed off from the outside by the external wall. This meant that getting under the house involved going down one particular big hole on the side of the house. This entrance shaft looked sort of like an over sized dry square well.
Stepping down into that hole I remained blanketed in the New Mexican sun. However, while standing in that hole I was the only thing I could see that was well lit. The crunching and grinding of the gravel under my shoes, hands, and knees as I crawled under the house was surprisingly satisfying. The noise of my feet on the ground and the rough textures around me lent the experience a feeling of present reality.
As Tim handed me the insulation to pull under the house behind me it was also nice to think about how for the next few hours, at least, I would get to work in a cool place rather than the hot sun directly above us.
Once we were under the house I lay down on one side of a particular side of the building and Tim lay about an insulation lengths away from me. With the sudden twangy clicks of the staple gun I secured one end of the insulation to the boards above me and then passed the other end to Tim who then secured the other end.
Though it was nice and cool under the house, deep and dank places are not without their own dangers. After working for a little while I came across a black widow. I was in an ideal position to identify a black widow’s red hourglass on the abdomen of this particular arachnid because it was about five inches above my face. I stopped scooting toward the next section of floor-in-need-of-insulation. At first all I did was squirm a little while I looked up at the little spider dangling above me. After a moment or two I started yelling. During my yelling the spider started to lower itself towards my face. It was apparently unaware that I was so close to it. I figured it should have been scared of my relatively large teeth. In retrospect, this would have been the best time to “dodge” and get out of the way.
The back widow has a very small amount of very potent neurotoxic venom. Because of the small volume of the venom, a bite from a black widow is rarely fatal. Before the days of antivenom 5% of reported bites resulted in fatality. Despite the rarity of death, a black widow bite can lead to “latrodectism”. This can mean sever pain in muscle groups near the bite, muscle cramping, headaches, dizziness, tremors, joint pain, rapid heart beat, hyperventilation, and other less-that-fun experiences.
Alerted by my yelling, Tim rolled onto his side to look at me. Then he slowly extended the hand with the staple gun in it. He clasped his wrist with his left hand to stabilize and support the gun hand. Tim carefully closed one eye. With a little chuckle he delicately aligned his one open eye with the top of the gun, and with the black widow.
When the spider was about three inches directly above my upper lip Tim started firing. *Click. *Click. One staple after another arched by my face, none of them hitting the spider, one or two delicately bouncing off of the side of my face.
“Tim, what are you doing?”
“No worries, I’m going to kill it. Everything…is…O…K.”
“I hate spiders. What if you hit the strand of web that it is hanging from?”
“Then I will be able to shoot it once it lands, or squish it”
Tim continued to shoot the staple gun. *Click, *Click, *Click. Then with a slow and careful grasp…*Click. The staples sailed by the spider, and its web.
“Are you kidding me?”