Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tick Talk

"How about this hike?" I showed my niece Elizabeth a photo of rolling, flowered hills.

"Never done it," she said. Huh! She's done every hike there is.

"How come?"

"Ticks," she said briefly.

Lots of ticks?

Lots of ticks. Last time she ventured out that direction, her dogs came home looking like armadillos. They had to take a Dremel tool to their ears.

Lifer Lewis's Woodpecker
"But it's supposed to be beautiful. I wouldn't mind trying it. We just have to make sure to stay on the trail."

"I'm out," Dave put in. Dave is a Portland native and has never had a tick on him. He's only ever seen one, and that was one he pulled out of me on a camping trip somewhere else. But he has an abiding and well-earned horror of insects. Mosquitoes plan their conventions around him. On a bad day he can fetch up a pint low. It doesn't calm him down to point out that ticks are more in the spider family. He is certain that if he goes into tick territory he will instantly succumb to any of the diseases they carry, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, or The Willies.

Elizabeth and I both grew up on the East Coast. My father used to do a tick check on me after every trip to the woods. It can't be that big a deal to do a tick check on children. If you've ever seen them skinned and laid out you can tell there's not a lot of acreage there, even on the tubby ones, and I was small. We figured we could be careful and check ourselves afterwards.

Because ticks are thoroughly disgusting. They look like a picked scab with hooks for legs, and they will trespass at will on your body, undetected and without permission, their revolting legs moving slowly and deliberately like the chin hairs on a hag that's gumming a baby. They are scouting for soft, damp spots. I have some of those.

Elizabeth had threatened to show up in Hefty bags but she didn't. I tucked light-colored pants into my socks, a t-shirt into my pants, a long-sleeved shirt over all, and slung on my binoculars. I was one Tilley Hat away from full-on birder-nerd fashion.

The hike was beautiful. The weather was grand. The paths were clear. Anytime Elizabeth wanted to examine a flower, she toed the line at the edge of the path and folded over at the waist like a crane. We were careful. And we didn't see a tick. We saw birds and lizards and flowers.

So we pronounced the hike a roaring success, stopped for ice cream, and toodled home. My tucked pants had done the trick, and although we were in open country and never passed under any tree limbs, I scoured my head with my fingernails several times just in case. All clear.

Then I took a shower. Shampooed up. And there, right on top of my head like an oil man scoping out a national park for the best place to drill, was a tick. It had not dug in and was easily, if queasily, introduced to Mr. Toilet. But all night long, nerve clusters in my skin went off randomly, doing tick imitations.

I'm not telling Dave. The Willies are super contagious.

39 comments:

  1. The only time I remember having ticks on me as an adult, Paul and I were hiking at a nature preserve. A strange dog started walking along with us, which we thought was fun, and so, apparently did the dog. Until we got to one particular trail. The dog almost shook his head no, visibly recoiling in horror. "C'mon!" we egged him on. He would not budge, and walked away from us, practically shaking his head over our fecklessness. We found out later why he had a fear of that trail: our clothes were covered in ticks. We did a thorough tick check on each other, and fortunately they hadn't latched on yet.

    As for mosquitoes, for some reason they LOVE me. Paul and I had another couple over for a barbecue one evening. The other guy and I were covered in mosquito bites. Paul and the woman had NONE. WTF?

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    Replies
    1. I don't know why, but I have a theory that Dave's attractiveness to mosquitoes has something to do with the fact that he has no body odor at all. So whatever he does have is some kind of ultrasonic dog-whistle odor only mosquitoes can detect.

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    2. TMI, but I rest my case -- all the good ones are taken.

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    3. My theory from working with groups of people is that mosquitoes are attracted to people who tend to be warm. My husband is a warm guy and when he steps out onto the deck on a summer evening, the mosquitoes storm the deck ruining my evening calm.

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    4. Dave's a furnace. He thinks it means he's efficient. I think it means just the opposite.

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    5. I'm always cold but the mosquitoes love me. Only in North Carolina, though. Perhaps they aren't used to tasty Canadians.

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    6. "We don't want tasty Canadians! We want toasty Canadians!"

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  2. I'm with Dave, comfortably watching TV or reading a book at home, inside, safely away from ticks and other things that bite.

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  3. It's a hostile world out there. Step outdoors and monstrous bloodsucking alien life forms will descend upon you. There are places where mankind was never meant to go, places infested with horrors we cannot face -- R'lyeh, interstellar space, and outdoors.

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    Replies
    1. Your aversion to all things natural is duly noted, again, sir! :)

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  4. This has been a bad year for ticks down here, I haven't had a problem, but my husband who's out in the yard, we have an acre, has and I've had to pull them out YUCK!

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    Replies
    1. Have you tried rotating them out with a wet Q-tip? That's the latest thing I've seen on Mr. Youtube. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet.

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    2. Beautiful scenery!! Our cats' vet uses a TickTornado tool by zenpet to hook, twist, lift. I saw a pretty slick demo and then had a case of The Willies. I now own the tools - includes 2 sizes. I appreciate your brain, writing style and sense of humor. Kim in PA

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    3. Now I need a TickTornado tool! Who knew? PS keep your next kitty indoors!

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  5. Be glad you did not hike around here. The ticks are horrible this year. Your description of "scabs with legs" is exactly right. Willies for sure.

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    Replies
    1. There are so many places to hike here with no ticks or poisonous snakes. We have to drive a bit to find all those.

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  6. Glad you found that tick before it attached itself, and I must tell you, hats are our friends. I wear one whenever I am outside.

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    Replies
    1. I should. But every time I put a hat on I keep trying to claw it off. And not just because they look ridiculous on me, although that is a factor.

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  7. If we had to stay away from ticks, chiggers, black flies, and mosquitoes, we'd be living in a prison. I'll continue to take my chances and enjoy as many of nature's wild places as I can get to.

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    Replies
    1. Or--we'd be living in western Oregon! (I do venture out. I just reserve the right to whine.)

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  8. This is almost as bad as what I imagined was going to happen, by your reference to ticks liking soft, damp spots. Now I don't want to do any yard work this year (the deer come through here regularly) and I ALREADY didn't want to do any yard work this year. Gah.

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    Replies
    1. I think you should do no yard work this year. The birds will approve.

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  9. I was in the BLue Ridge Mountains one time. Got up early and was walking down a path through a field that looked like something out of Disney. Bright flowers, flocks of goldfinches and bluebirds. And all the grass blades along the path were lined with gray dust. I looked closer and it was ticks, thousands, upon thousands of ticks. I don't recall getting any ticks on me there, but I also never, ever left the path.

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    Replies
    1. Holy shit. When the dust is movin', you best be, too.

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  10. My heart goes out to Dave. I am a mosquito magnet. To the extent that my partner uses my presence instead of spraying himself with repellent. I get fanged, he walks free and unmolested.
    I haven't had a tick and don't want one. The countryside you trekked in DID look amazing though.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't that pretty? We have to go out east of the mountains for the most part to get that wide-open stuff, and evidently ticks prefer that too. Closer in to town, not so much.

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  11. I live in the middle of tick country. I know people that have had Lymes, Ehrlichia, and that other one that makes you allergic to mammal meet! My husband has had a few days after clearing our fence when he comes home with a dozen ticks! We are careful to remove them and careful to dress as you do and this year with the new Powassan that is fatal we use bug killer and bug deterrent. It is a desperate life here.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, who keeps inventing new tick diseases? Powassan. Mammal Meat Allergy. Stop already.

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  12. I know a thing or three 'bout ticks. #1. They are unpleasant little bastard.Which, once full of your blood are unpleasant BIG, FAtt bastards.
    I've had a late night trip to the hospital to have one removed when The Man, who can do most things, was unable to detach the sucker.For the record, the med student and the resident doc couldn't get it off either. Took a scalpel and some sutures.
    And I've had to remove then from possums, goats, cats, dogs, a kite(bird, not toy)and chickens.

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    Replies
    1. Bleah. Bleah. Bleah. Bleah.

      Dave's one and only tick was the one he removed from my left breast. He just kept pulling and I swear there was a single line of almost elastic flesh that remained attached to the tick until he'd gotten it out a good six inches. The one I pulled out of my shoulder (March 31, 2016) with my fingernails--I had nothing else--left a pit and a mark that is still visible today.

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    2. I heard lately that possums eat ticks and I've been hoping that some show up here (possums). I can't imagine how on earth you removed some from a possum; they have lots of sharp teeth and I wouldn't have thought they would cooperate.

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    3. If anyone's removing ticks from a possum, it's another possum. So not to worry!

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  13. Never encountered a tick but I AM delicious (just ask any mosquito)!!

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  14. In the early 70's, when we lived down in Grass Pants (Grants Pass, to the non-natives), ticks and poison oak were a near daily occurrence. Never got any in the north part.
    Where is the place you were hiking? Looks maybe like hood off in the distance, the water is the Columbia?
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, and this is on the Washington side of the river, about seven miles east of The Dalles: Crawford Oaks Loop.

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