Daddy Longlegs, the Harvestman Encounter
My encounter with a swarm of Daddy Longlegs, or as we called them, Granddaddy Longlegs
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.