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That was quite the unevolved thing to do, to steal a classroom tarantula.

For the ecologically inclined fourth- and fifth-graders of teacher Jamie Daniels' combination class at Guerneville School, the discovery that someone broke in earlier this month and took the resident pinktoe tarantula — Avicularia avicularia — was a lesson in the lower ranges of human potential.

The display of antisocial behavior was made worse by word that the thief or thieves also stole a TV from the kindergarten room.

Of course, the break-in was reported to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. The deputy who came out joked with Daniels that a stolen tarantula is something he's not sure he'd want to recover.

What were the chances of finding it anyway?

Not long after, the same deputy responded to a report of a loud party there on the lower Russian River. While at the party pad he spotted, of all things, a fellow with a tarantula.

The deputy approached and advised the man that he might well be in possession of stolen property, as just such an arachnid had been ripped off from Guerneville School.

Days ago, Principal/Superintendent Elaine Carlson was in the office when a man appeared carrying a small cage. He asked her, "Do you recognize this?"

There was a time in her life that Carlson could not have imagined being so elated to see a tarantula. The stranger told her that he'd bought it for $50 from a homeless man.

Most of the people with whom Carlson share the story respond with some variation of, "Pshaw! That rascal was the thief."

"I will tell you straight up," the Principal/Superintendent said. "I didn't think that."

She accepted the man's offer of the tarantula, then thanked him — and reimbursed him the 50 bucks he'd told of paying for it.

Here again, some people hear this part of the saga and they look at Carlson as though she'd said she rewarded the guy with a house at The Sea Ranch and a new Mercedes SLK convertible.

But she was going with her gut, which told her he was telling the truth.

The tarantula's return to the grades 4-5 classroom was an exercise in jubilation and a demonstration of the natural fact that while life is not perfect, it's often perfectly magical.

THINK BACK to 2010, when a sweet, old, white barn stood in the way of construction of a new Sutter Hospital alongside the Wells Fargo Center on Highway 101 just north of Santa Rosa.

A community effort allowed the owners of Tierra Farms to have the barn dismantled, board by board, and reassembled at the farm a bit farther north, at 101 and Airport Boulevard.

That work was done by Gary Tait and his Occidental-based Timberline Construction. Today, Tait is back on the Sutter site to oversee construction of another gem that would not happen without the caring of many.

It's a residence to be called "Shea House" and will be available for use by the families of newborns and other children hospitalized at Sutter — or at an any other hospital in Sonoma County.

The endeavor to build, furnish and maintain the four-bedroom house remains in need of donations. But work has begun, with the delivery days ago of trusses and pre-constructed wall panels, thanks to some very generous gifts.

Key was a donation from Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards and Emeritus Vineyards founder Brice Cutrer Jones and his partners, Ted Elliott and Fred Reno, in the charitable World Croquet Championship Foundation.

The guest house that will soon take shape alongside the Sutter Hospital project gets its name from Bill and Elizabeth Shea of San Francisco, the couple responsible for the largest portion of the gift from the WCC Foundation.

Plenty of others have pitched in, too. The county's Permit & Resource Management Department waived a good deal of the permit fees, Mead Clark Lumber donated steel for the foundation and the Windsor Wal-Mart will put four TVs in the guest rooms.

It's easy to imagine the hospitalized kids becoming well and celebrating with an outing to the white farm barn just up the way.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)