Directly after making my last post, I sent off an email to Dr. Ken Cramer who is a professor at Monmouth College (a campus I have visited several times) and who seems somewhat of an expert on spiders.
I forwarded two pictures of the spider on Josh's arm along with the following explanation:
When I was visiting Arkansas at the end of August last year, this spider was found in the tall weeds near a fish pond. This is located about an hour east of Fort Smith, AR. Pictured here is my friend holding the spider right near the water's edge. The spider crawled all over him with no problems. I, however, had just put on bug spray...and when my friend tried to transfer the spider to me, the spider tried to get off as quickly as possible. I could immediately sense the "sticky feeling" on the end of its legs, however.
Dr. Cramer wrote back with the following response:
It is not a wolf spider, it is a tarantula, probably in the family Theraphosidae. I'm not sure about their distribution in Arkansas but I know that they are found in the SW US and east to Florida. Tarantulas are a distinct group, far more ancient than the wolf spiders which belong to a more recently evolved sub-group of spiders. They are much slower moving that wolf spiders, and usually much larger (though some wolf spiders can get in the 2-3 inch range). Hope that helps.
Hmmmm...... I don't know what all of you think about his response...but from looking at the pictures, it seems like he's got the right family pegged! A TARANTULA?!?!? I had no idea!