Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Spider and the Fly

From now until well into the fall, the woods become full of spider webs.  They are amongst the fiercest of predators.  I saved one fly from one of the meekest spiders I ever saw.

       I learn a lot when I set on my porch watching the birds and rabbits and squirrels.  Every now and then a deer passes through, or something like a raccoon family or a coopers hawk.  If an armadillo comes around, he is a dead armadillo!  But I watched a life and death struggle just the other morning.  The participants were very very small.  A housefly somehow got his leg stuck through the screen wire and couldn’t get it out.
       His struggles were epic, sort of what you might expect if you could go back in time and see a wooly mammoth stuck in a mud bog, just on a smaller scale.  His predicament attracted a tiny spider, which likely was about half the size of the fly in body weight.  The spider could see the possibility of a great feast, and he would get about a half inch away from the fly, which would go berserk at his approach, and then the spider would get scared and run up the screen a few inches to get his nerve back.

       That went on for a while, the fly screaming obscenities at the spider and begging for his buddies to help.  Well I don’t know that, I just suspect it.  If I had my leg stuck in something and a spider was approaching, it is what I would do.  What a spider does to a fly is awful.  When one is caught in a spider web, or any other insect is caught, a spider bites them and injects a little bit of venom into its body with little tiny fangs of a sort.  It puts the fly to sleep.

       The spider has no chewing teeth so then it just sucks out the body fluid and soft matter, leaving the outer shell.  If you ever come across a fly skeleton, which I never have, you will know he was set upon by a spider!

       Anyways, I sat there and watched the whole thing and just couldn’t stand it any longer so I pulled the fly out of the screen, which pulled his leg off.  I know that must have been very painful, on a small scale, so I put him out of his misery.  Not long ago I came across an electric fly swatter that looks a little like a tennis racket.  It has batteries in it and if you push the button on the handle, the metal strands inside the frame receive an electrical jolt that kills even horse-fly or a wasp.  I sat the tortured fly on it and pushed the button, electrocuting it and putting it out of its misery.  The spider, seeing the whole thing, hot-footed it off away and out of site rather quickly.

       With all that over, I sat back to watch one young gray squirrel chase another all through the branches of a chinquapin oak, apparently unaware that mating season is months away.  I assume that the one in the front was a female, who well knew when the mating season was, and the one in the rear was a male, who couldn’t care less.  He has not learned yet what most of us grizzled old veteran outdoorsmen found out many years ago.  You don’t chase ‘em, you bring them flowers, you read them poetry and you find an after-shave lotion they really like.
       I know that many of you readers are far from Lake of the Ozarks, but permit me to take a short piece of this page to inform everyone of a get together at Climax Springs they are calling the Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Luncheon.   This is a dinner that will take place on Wednesday September 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the towns Civic Center. 

       About twenty or so really good-looking ladies came up with the idea of raising money by inviting men to come to a really great dinner and charging them 10 dollars each, then using the money to pay winter utility bills for some of the areas elderly people.

Isn’t that a great idea?  They have asked me to come and give a thirty-minute talk about conservation and the outdoors.  While the dinner costs ten dollars, the talk I give which will involve more humor than seriousness, is completely free.  In fact I am going to bring a bunch of my outdoor magazines to give away, free of charge.

       They tell me that there in the Climax Springs Civic Center, where the dinner will be on the second floor, they will have vendors on the bottom floor selling things like art, fishing lures, turkey calls, etc., so outdoorsmen should enjoy the event even more.

       One of the reasons I bring up this event is to let people know that I would rather speak for a group that is raising money for a cause than anything else I do.  God never gave me any great talent or ability, but one thing He gave me was the ability to talk to people and I like to use that.  I think it springs from the years I spent as an interpretive naturalist at state parks in Missouri and Arkansas and for the National Park Service at Buffalo River.

       I speak to groups often; churches, outdoorsmen’s groups, conventions, wild game dinners, civic clubs, schools, writers groups, etc.  I do it free of charge even though many of those places have what they call “honorariums” which means they have a check for speakers.  Since I can generally sell enough of my books at such events to pay for the gas to get there, I return that money.  Here’s why… At a big Assembly of God church in Columbus Kansas a few years ago, a four-hundred-dollar honorarium I returned, used with money donated by the audience, bought dozens of pairs of shoes for children at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in the Dakotas.

       At a Baptist church in Mountain Grove Missouri I spoke to a big congregation just before a Sunday dinner there, and returned a five-hundred-dollar honorarium, which I placed in a collection plate, and asked the congregation to pass the plate and put in a handful of change or a dollar to make it grow.  That money would be given to the local schools to buy coats for underprivileged children of the area.  The congregation really responded.  We ended up with nine-hundred and eighty-one dollars. 
       I remember the amount well, because while I never saw any of the little kids who benefited, a teacher called me to tell me about a little 8-year-old girl so proud of her new coat she wouldn’t take it off in the classroom for more than a week. Then there was a little boy who needed glasses to be able to see the blackboard, which his parents couldn’t afford, and his teacher nearly cried when she described the big smile on his face because for the first time in his life, he could see clearly as a result of that Sunday morning.

       I don’t spend five minutes on planning the talks I give… because it seems that God lets me know what to say when the time is right.  I can hear the skeptics laughing at that, but it is the truth!  Mostly, I like to tell stories and experiences from my life to make people laugh.  But it serves a higher purpose, and gives my life a true purpose…someone who grew up so poor I thought I would never be able to help anyone, raising thousands of dollars to help hundreds of people.  When you consider how easy this has become for me, it is something of a real miracle.  In high school I couldn’t even stand up in class and give a book report.  If you have an event which raises money to help others, and you need a speaker, just let me know.

My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 and the email address is lightninridge@windstream.net  Or you can call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at our executive office at 417-777-5227.  If she is doing her nails you will just get a message- and I will call you back.

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