I was just thinking…………

…….that those of you who’ve read any of my previous articles have probably twigged by now that I’ve a bit of a passion for Australian wildlife. We need to understand it, nurture it and preserve it to the best of our ability. I’ve been lucky enough to get close to some unique and spectacular creatures in some amazing parts of this country. I’ve seen a lyrebird in its own habitat in the Victorian Dandenongs and from beside a river in Queensland I caught another rare sight – a ‘plop’ in the water and there was a platypus! The gorgeous little creature was ducking and diving about his business and every now and then he would pop his head up from somewhere different and those beady little black eyes would be checking on me.
In North Queensland I watched spellbound as an enormous python wove its magnificent body slowly up through the open bricks in the wall of the patio and disappeared into the ceiling of our house.
And I’ve had a southwest python coil itself around me (not in the wild, though, I confess, – at a snake demonstration!)

I’ve been too close to wild bulls in the Northern Territory (scary) and I’ve even – on several occasions – swum with crocodiles. Oh come on, give me a break - just because I had no idea I WAS swimming with them, it still happened! This was in the 70’s at Kununurra – no signs, no warnings, no crocodiles – or so we thought! ‘Till we were fishing for our usual barramundi early one evening and came face to face with a very large salty with that look in his evil eyes. He must have been licking his chops for several evenings as he planned his gruesome dinner. That incident made pikers out of us and put a sure end to our frolics in the Ord River. A bit scary, that was.

In Townsville, I was once bailed up in the middle of the night and had to call in the cavalry because the most belligerent fat ugly goggle-eyed cane toad decided the downstairs toilet was his territory, not mine! Now that was scary.

But not nearly as scary as my nemeses! The creatures that plague me where ever I go! They have a code, these foul furry freaks! They must have some kind of weird ‘arachnophoidal’ wave which has them all tuned in to just one thing ; one mission in their miserable lives. To follow me! To frighten the living daylights out of me at every possible opportunity. It’s a conspiracy. Ugly hairy-legged creeps! Of all the creatures on the planet, this species is truly a gross mistake of nature. I’ve always thought that God has a great sense of humour and if I’m right, then this is his magnum opus of jokes! The Huntsman Spider! I can barely type it without my toes curling. We have this weird thing, the girls in our family. On spotting a huntsman our toes kind of curl under immediately. It’s an involuntary thing - and my toes are definitely double-jointed! But I’m not the only one who collapses with fear at huntsman spiders. Oh no! When I moved into my brand new house many years ago, I was living in a new suburb with bush all around - a huntsman’s haven. I went to the letterbox, lifted the lid, reached in for my mail and there under the power bill was the biggest huntsman I have ever seen. Now I’m a bit of a huntsman connoisseur and I’m telling you, this was big. It was quite literally elephantine! The power bill rested on its back!

I went into shock. I went silent, white and could not move. Eventually I remembered to breathe, club-footed my way across the road (toes bent under at an impossible angle) and rather incoherently tried to get four beefy road workers who were digging a trench to come and get this ‘thing’ out of my letter box. They smirked at each other, sauntered over, peered into the letterbox – and ran!
I had to get the pest control man to come!

On another occasion I was bailed up for three days and could not get into or out of my front door because a huge huntsman – probably the same one – took up residence on the glass panel next to the door. The worst thing about that was that I could clearly see him from both sides! Looking at him from outside the house was bad enough, but from inside I could see his entire underbelly through the glass. Believe me it was not a pretty sight. Honestly! Those freaks don’t have a single redeeming feature. It was at least a fortnight before I could eat.

Well, time went on and I hadn’t seen one for quite a while. I was becoming complacent. Ah ha! It’s part of the conspiracy, you see! I should have known. The other day Chloe pointed up at the wall in the kitchen and my toes were already buckling as I followed her gaze and saw that hairy aberration up between the spotlights. They have this trick, these things, they actually look a reasonable size – something you could handle – until they move! And then the body flattens out to twice it’s size and those revolting legs begin to unfurl and the next thing you know there’s a creature the size of a dinner plate confronting you, daring you! And can they move when they want to! A blur of brown hairiness and they’re on the other size of the room in an impossible place for you to reach. And they can jump! Yes they can! Right off the wall!

Chloe’s friend Meg, brave little animal lover, stood by with a jar and a coaster, hoping to save him – yeah .. right - Fat Chance! Chloe stood well back and made ‘Jaws’ music on her flute - Great Help! With trembling legs and thumping heart, I climbed onto the table and waved a broom in the general area of hairy-legs. I eventually took a deep breath, girded myself and teetering dubiously on the edge of the table with my – by now – extremely awkward feet - prickled him with the straw end of the broom. As I expected, he spread himself out to full circumference and lit out across the wall. He dropped to the floor with a thud and started to run on 8 cylinders across to the dining room. Noooo! If he got in there I’d never get him and then I’d have to move out. I leapt down from the table and collided with Meg who was darting after him with outstretched jar. Chloe, meanwhile, having moved even further out of the way, upped the tempo of her ear-splitting flute dramatics as I made a heroic lunge for the intruder. I got him! Yes! He was assisted under enormous protest to the kitchen door and lost one leg in battle. Even then, once over the doorstep, he kept turning around and trying to run back inside again and again. He lost even more legs in the battle with the straw broom and eventually lost his life. I didn’t mean to kill him, honest!

Lori Spencer