Daddy Longlegs, the Harvestman Encounter

My encounter with a swarm of Daddy Longlegs, or as we called them, Granddaddy Longlegs

. . .  the roof of the overhang  . . .
. . . the roof of the overhang . . .

This is an account of my childhood encounter with a Daddy Longlegs phenomenon.

If you have a spider phobia, do not read any further. (Cue the spooky Hallowe’en music.)

I grew up in a great area in central Texas called Chalk Bluff. Our property was remote, with huge oak and pecan trees, near the Brazos River; it was wonderful.

I was the oldest child in the family, and I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours alone, roaming the countryside, playing with horned lizards and building homes for fairies. I wandered along the banks of the Brazos River, even though I was never taught how to swim. I walked out onto the sandy gravel beds and followed the tiny trails of the water creatures that burrow beneath the sand.

I understand there was a community in Chalk Bluff once, but when we lived there, there were perhaps three or four families in the area. Back then we didn’t concern ourselves with human predators and my mother let me roam from early in the morning until dark in the summer time. She warned us against copperhead snakes and rattlers and rabid dogs.

One hot summer day, I went farther down the river than ever before. The banks started out accessible and easy to walk along; the river had carved a wide path and the level of water was down. I wandered a long way down an easy trail, pushing aside wild grapevines and generally enjoying the day.

The trail gradually grew narrow and the overhang of chalky rock lower and more difficult to navigate. I thought of turning back, but I had come so far that I preferred to find a way up over the bank instead. I bent at the waist and kept walking forward. I came to a turn in the bank so that I couldn’t see ahead and had to either get down and crawl or turn back.

I fell to my hands and knees and crawled forward, hoping that the riverbank would widen soon. Instead the overhang became like a cave with no room to stand and I felt more and more trapped and closed in.

As I crawled, I became aware of movement on the roof of the overhang. I turned my head to the right and looked upward. The roof of the overhang was covered with a dark moving mat of creatures, bouncing up and down in a tangled mass. Daddy Longlegs, thousands of them, hundreds of thousands, like a horrid mass of horsehair stuffing I had seen once inside the torn seat of an old car my granddaddy had.

My instinct was to leap up and scream and run, but I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t run. All I could do was go forward. My breathing was panicky and a fine cold sweat covered my face and body. I crawled faster and bruised my palms and knees and I tried with all my might to get out of the horrible situation I found myself in.

Logically, I knew the Daddy Longlegs were harmless. I had played with them many times. It was the sheer size of the mass of them that was unbearable. They bounced mindlessly and made an odd sizzling noise as they moved. I began to whimper and continued frantically crawling faster and faster.

Finally, the bank began to widen again and the ceiling became higher and not so undercut. I got to a place where I could stand and I held onto the white limestone rocks and began to cry. I stumbled away from the river and ran straight as an arrow toward home.

Arriving at the back door, I burst into the kitchen and began bawling in earnest, mostly with relief at the sight of my mother. She turned from the stove and stared at me in a most horrified fashion, taking in the sight of my face streaked in chalk dust and my bruised and bleeding palms and knees. She enveloped me in her arms and wiped my tear-stained face with her apron.

What is it? she asked. Did a snake bite you? What is it? Blubbering and hiccuping, I sobbed the story out. She sagged with relief. She gave me a glass of water and told me to get a wet washcloth and wash my face, hands, and knees, and go lay down in my room.

That image came back to haunt me again and again throughout my life, those masses of Daddy Longlegs bouncing up and down, up and down; ugh, what strange creatures they are.

The Daddy Longlegs, aka Harvestman, not really a spider at all … no venom, no web, having only two eyes, and completely harmless to humans. I had played with them all my life and felt terribly guilty when one of their legs broke off and lay twitching. During my ordeal on the river bank, I knew they were harmless and yet I succumbed to a mindless panic brought on by the alien sight of a tangled mass of them bobbing and vibrating like a single huge scary creature from a child’s nightmare.

To read a fascinating hub about spiders that includes some amazing pictures, go here: http://darksinistar.hubpages.com/hub/Itsy-Bitsy-Spider-Climbed-Up-the-HubPage

This Daddy Longlegs phenomenon is something I hope to never see again; truly a nightmare experience.

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Comments 18 comments

Stigma31 profile image

Stigma31 5 years ago from Kingston, ON

I can understand your horror. I have never really been afraid of spiders or the such, but a huge mass hanging overhead would definitely creep me out. Everyone get that weird feeling when they walk through a web and just start swiping away, hoping that the spider isn't on them. I am sure if the mass fell on you it would have scarred you for a long time. Thanks for sharing, voting up!


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Ugh, just the thought of them falling on me creeps me out to this day! Thanks for the visit and the comment, Stigma31.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I read this with a shiver up my spine! ughh! lol you are not the only one to freak out at these creatures! my favorite story of daddy longlegs was a few years ago, I was terrified of them! and one day there was one zooming in on me in the hallway of my house. somehow it had got some cotton on its legs and looked enormous! I ran! and ran and ran! until I got to the foot of my stairs and slipped! my legs shot up in front of me, and with a bang that shuddered the whole house, I dropped to the floor and a seering pain shot up my leg! it was twisted, and the bruise shot out in all directions. I screamed 'bag of peas, bag of peas! (there is a point! lol) and everyone came running. when they realised what I had done they said, why the peas? 'because its in the freezer and I need an ice pack!' so there I was, on the floor, a bag of frozen peas on my ankle, and yes, I had to get the paramedics to come with an ambulance and cart me off to hospital! ha ha I was there for about three to four hours, I then had an Xray, forgot to say they packed my leg up with the full torniquet thing, and after the Xray, realising it was just twisted, I had to make my way home. I was mortified! I never knew what happened to that darn daddy longlegs!


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Oh my goodness, I am laughing so hard, but feeling bad for you all the same! Bag of Peas! Bag of Peas! Oh you poor thing. I hope the Daddy Longlegs creatures never realize the power they have over us. Thanks for visiting, Nell Rose.


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

What is it about Daddy Long Legs that gives them such power? Hmmmm, As long as they stay below me it's not so bad, but I prefer they stay outside completely! Thanks for sharing your spider story Silva, lots of fun as long as they stay away from me.....


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Maybe their impossible anatomy is what's so frightening? Such strange creatures. Thanks, Chatkath!


carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 5 years ago from United Kingdom

That's an intresting story silva!! ha ha ha daddy long legs, and nell the bag of peas had me laughing as well!! I have a lizardo phobia rather than the spider one!! but i think it was brave of you be quite an explorer!!

carrie


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Hahaha, aren't we humans funny creatures; I like lizards! I used to capture them and bring them inside the house when I was a girl, and mother would be so annoyed when they escaped and hid in the closet or under the bed. Thanks for visiting, carrie.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether

When my mom was little her older brothers used to catch them and put them in her hair! How horrible is that!? You told this story with such conviction. I fully enjoyed it...the imagery was especially vivid. Thanks and voted up!


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Thank you for the visit, kittythedreamer! { shiver } on putting them in her hair! Horrible!


Richawriter profile image

Richawriter 4 years ago from On Top of the World

Wow, what a great story that was. I was fully gripped by the imagery and the nostalgia it caused me to feel. Nostalgia for the days when I would trek for hours out in the fields and woods alone, back in England.

However, I do have a slight phobia of spiders and they really creep me out! I remember those Harvestman spiders living in my house on the ceilings. We would dust and clear away the cobwebs but they always came back eventually. I remember once when I was on the top bunk and I awoke to see a huge harvestman female carrying her eggs across the ceiling just above my face!! Man, that was a shock!

The thought of so many of them above me as you experienced really makes me shiver with fear. Anything but spiders. Rats, mice, snakes, lizards etc no problem!

Great hub and voted up!


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Thanks for stopping by, Richawriter. Yes, some childhood memories are stamped indelibly on our brains. Ugh, your image of the mama with the eggs, {shiver}.


Charlotte 4 years ago

therea one in my kitchen right now!! i have a phobia of anything furry and or eoth more than 4 legs!


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Eeeeee!


xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Such a well-written piece that we were in that tunnel of brush with you!

This is great, found it from a comment you made elsewhere. Where in Texas was Chalk Bluff? Maybe Waco or Lampasas area? I spent a lot of summers near Abilene, little town of Merkel with my dad. It was drought time then too, the mid-fifties.


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Hi, good to meet you. Yes, you know Texas pretty well. Chalk Bluff is north of Waco. I grew up there and then moved to Abilene, where I lived for several years in the early Sixties before finally settling in central Texas near the south shore of Lake Travis. I've been through Merkel many times!


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 3 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

I relate fully to your freedom as a child. I had the free run of a farm when a boy, with deep woods, miles of hedgerow and a cool meandering river down at the 'Lows'. I'd know just where to wade and watch a pike, in two foot of clear water, a true freshwater legend.

Your story of the daddy longlegs (long shanks locally) is sketched beautifully. I enjoyed your descriptions of the moving mass, and the hiss - must have terrified you! That would make a great image for a scary children's book.

Votes for this creepy crawly hub.


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas Author

Loved your comments. Thanks for the visit. "Long Shanks;" what an appropriate name for the Daddy Longlegs.

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