Amateur historian drives into garage misadventure

It’s as if Jackie Chan took a job as a librarian: You know, sooner or later, he’ll be knocking the shelves over onto some bad guy. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “check out.”

Real history is interesting and not dry at all – if done properly – making it somewhere between blowing things up with Harrison Ford and reciting dates in middle school. I was terrible at dates, all the way through school, but enough about my love life. My own archeological misadventure would have been shrugged off by Jones, involving as it did only one spider.

But oh, what a spider. I was trying to clean up the garage enough to get my car in there for the winter, and apparently I disturbed its home, which considering its size consisted of the entire garage.

“What?!” it grumbled in a deep, James Earl Jones voice, while the ground shook with its every step. “Do I come into your house and move your stuff around?”

Well, maybe it does. That would explain why I can never find anything. Do spiders eat socks?

So here was this spider, not only dangerous but cranky and did I mention huge? At this point I started looking around for the giant rolling boulder, or maybe a crystal skull. No, just kidding – I was way too busy wetting my pants.

So, I swung a broom at it. It’s remarkably easy to kill a spider with a broom, ordinarily. Or at least it’s easy to try. I’ve been known, while swinging brooms at spiders, to demolish every breakable item in a room.

This spider grabbed the broom out of my hand, broke it in half, and bounced both halves off my skull. Then it sneered.

Did you ever see the move Tarantula? No, probably not: It was one of those 50’s monster movies, the ones in which any kind of living thing that might scare people was expanded to Godzilla size – usually by radiation from nuclear testing. Spiders, ants, and my favorite, the praying mantis, which made everyone else pray.

In Tarantula, the spider grew so huge that eventually Clint Eastwood in a jet fighter had to blow it up with rockets. It was one of Clint’s first film roles, but even then he was wielding large guns. Good thing, too, since until then the townspeople failed miserably at killing the spider with dynamite, guns, and brooms.

You probably want to know why, spiders aside, I find my garage historically interesting. Relax, I’ll get back to my arachnid friend – he’s not going anywhere.

I wasn’t a particular fan of history classes in school. If it didn’t shoot or blow up – well, in some ways I was a normal boy, although I did find the maps with all those lines of exploration fascinating. What got me interested in history were the World War II comic books of the 60’s and 70’s: Sergeant Rock, The Haunted Tank, The Unknown Soldier, and so on. (Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandoes was a bit too over the top even for me.)

I had the same Thompson machine gun that Tom Hanks later carried in Saving Private Ryan (would you relax? It didn’t shoot real bullets) and, of course, G.I. Joe, although Joe usually came up on the losing end when he took on Johnny West and Johnny’s six shooter. My favorite Christmas gift was the Normandy Invasion play set, complete with medics and injured soldiers – who thought that was a good idea? It must have helped, though, because by the time I turned eighteen I was both enamored of war toys and antiwar in real life. My parents did this crazy thing where they taught me to understand the difference between fantasy and real life.

My point is, when it came to history my interest sneaked in through the back door. It was the same with local history, which started with firefighting. The first major house fire I responded to was on a fire engine that was, at the time, almost thirty years old, which isn’t the best scenario but piqued my interest.

So, as both a volunteer firefighter and a history buff, you can imagine my interest when I discovered my home had once burned.

But I see I’m out of space, not to mention the spider demands I feed it and read it a story. Next week: Indiana Mark and the Garage of Clutter.

Maybe the title needs some work …

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