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There I was, up to my armpit in a prairie dog burrow.   It was part of a volunteer effort to relocate some rodents from another site that was soon to be a housing development.   The colony was long-abandoned and on city open space; it wasn’t perfect like the eastern plains in 1890 but beggars can’t be choosers and it did seem the right thing to do.

We were prepping for the new residents; cutting down too-tall foliage so the dogs could watch for predators and inspecting each burrow to make sure it was open and viable as a dwelling.  I didn’t love reaching where I couldn’t see but that’s what leather gloves are for, and so I wriggled to another burrow and prepared to reach inside.

Lying on my chest in the dust I came eye-to-eye with a big brown spider.  She was at the opening of the burrow and right in the middle.  In theory I could sort of reach over her and maybe it would work but who even has a thought like that?  Would she end up inside my shirt?  Was she the dreaded brown recluse?   Would she bite me in the armpit and then all the flesh would fall off?  What would that look like?

Dimly I remembered that some kind of interesting spider lives in prairie dog burrows and sort of reaches out and nips passersby for a living, so she was supposed to be there but I on the other hand was not, and so my brain droned on.

I could scoop her up in my glove but I flinched and then she flinched.  So I lay there and we considered each other and then I thought, well on the other hand maybe I can just explain it.

“Look, spider,” I said.  “I have a job to do and I really, really need to reach into this hole.  If you scoot over it’ll just take a second and then you can go right back in.”   She left the burrow and moved about 6 inches to one side.

I can’t be sure, but I think she was waiting.  I reached in, did a little rooting and then pulled my arm back out.  I dusted off my hands.   She was in the same spot.

“Hey, thanks, man,” I told her.  “It’s all yours.”

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