Most of the work that I have created at the Falls of the Ohio State Park was made between the two “P’s” on the above map detail. I lifted this image from a recent brochure about the Ohio River Greenway. I’m just noticing that the word “park” has an “e” at the end…what’s with that? Is this a variation of Ye Old Park(e) or a simple misspelling? Anyway, the green line that separates the dark blue river from the blonde fossil beds is the area I walk. Most of my river finds and the pieces I make from them occur in this area. The thicker black line is the old iron railroad bridge that I have featured so often throughout this blog. It’s been a while since I posted anything new here. In fact, since I started the old riverblog, this is the longest I have gone without posting something. I have had a series of misfortunes that have dented my mojo with the biggest being losing my day job. I’m not one that easily compartmentalizes my life and occasionally things spill over and affect other areas. Among the other changes included having to purchase a new computer. It’s taken a while to get used to doing things in a different way. I’m still in the process of transferring images and data from the old machine to the new one. I have too many images that need parking in a “cloud” somewhere. I debate with myself whether or not I absolutely need all of these pictures? I do harbor the ambition to produce a book or two about my stories and collections, but I’m sure I have enough material already. This blog after all, has over 3,ooo images that I have already published. What it doesn’t have are the first five years or so of this project that are recorded on 4″ x 6″ color prints that were developed at the local drugstore.
Although I haven’t posted much recently, I am still going to the river. It’s been an unusual year out here and for much of this spring the river has been high. Summer is now upon us and with that comes the high heat and humidity. This adventure happened in early June after the willow trees had fully leafed out. I believe this is also my first post using just images recorded with my cell phone. I now have a new Nikon my brother gave me as a birthday present. He is an avid nature photographer living in Florida and had a spare digital SLR he could part with. I can’t wait to try out the new camera at the river and I hope to do this soon.
I have really fallen in love with this old willow tree. Last year, I photographed my “La Belle Riviere” piece using this tree as my model. This tree is a survivor. It’s managed to go through many floods and while it is severely bent over and its roots are exposed…it keeps on living and adding character to this landscape. I have noticed that the center of its trunk is starting to hollow out a bit. I wonder how long this willow has held this ground? I was musing about these things when I noticed movement in a nearby stand of mixed maple and willow trees. I picked up my collecting bag and walking stick and quietly moved over to investigate. I was quite unprepared for what I was about to discover! Here are a few of the first images I made of my new find.
It was another giant spider! I recalled that it was about this time last year that I encountered the Giant Driftwood Spider which is a completely different animal from the spider I was looking at now. It’s body was a bit over two feet long and a mottled white in color. This seems to be another example of what I have come to coin as the “Falls of the Ohio Godzilla Effect”. Over the years, this particular park has regularly produced freaks of nature. The most striking of which are the giant insects (and now spiders) that pop up on occasion. My theory as to why this happens here has everything to do with contemporary pollution and a degraded environment. For some reason, arthropods in particular are sensitive to these ecological changes which can result in gigantism in these organisms.
I decided to call this the Great Wolf Spider, (Lycosa styreni). Looking around, I could find no trace of a web and decided that this was a ground hunting species like other members of the family of wolf spiders, Lycosidae. I imagined that this impressive spider subsisted upon the small mammals that it could capture within the confines of this park. That would include many rodents including squirrels, rats, groundhogs, and perhaps the occasional beaver. I also imagine that stray cats and dogs would be on the menu too. This spider has large pink-colored fangs that gave it a somewhat bucktoothed appearance. As long I kept my distance and did not make any threatening moves…the spider tolerated me. I also noticed that this amazing creature also has unusual eyes.
From what I could discern…this spider sported four eyes total and all in a row. It had two large and rather mismatched eyes. One eye possessed a large red iris that leant a diabolical aspect to it. On either side of these “great eyes” were two smaller, black vestigial eyes. I wonder if the smaller eyes are used to detect peripheral motion? It was disconcerting in the least to be the object of attention from these unblinking eyes. I approached this spider with caution. Although I was fearful once the spider moved…I, however, was never in any actual danger since the spider never took any aggressive actions toward me. I was of course satisfied to keep my distance just in case!
My last images of this impressive arachnid show it blending into its surrounding environment. The sun light filtering through the tree canopy produced a dappled light and dark pattern that helped camouflage the spider as it lay in wait of its next meal. The only bit of movement that could betray it was the slight, subtle twitching produced by its driftwood-like legs. It was at this moment that I decided to back off and head home. I don’t know if this spider is a one of a kind creature or whether there are other examples of this species that could populate this park? I’m inclined to believe that I was observing a single individual. The question is…how long will it be before our continued abuse of the environment produces monsters we may regret? Until the next adventure…