Hordes of people are still moving to the countryside in search of a better way of life. They love the seclusion and privacy that rural living provides most people. They cherish the quietness that exists on most days. They appreciate the darkness of the nighttime, with a view of the starry skies unobstructed by the lights of the city. They love everything about that first year in the farmscape, until… tick season arrives.
I can usually tell the newcomers by the way they scratch and claw at their arms and legs while standing in line at the local pharmacy, before they frustratingly ask the old pharmacist what they can put on chigger bites to make the itching go away. He smiles and does the best he can by suggesting calamine lotion or some other “catchall” to provide temporary relief from a sensation they’ve never experienced before. After they leave the pharmacy, the newbies usually go to the local feed store to see if they stock any product that will help in preventing the little pests from getting on them in the first place. There, they get all kinds of suggestions – some backed up by science, and others backed up by “cowboy logic.”
During my lifetime, I think I’ve seen about everything used to prevent ticks and chiggers. I can remember Mom tying turpentine-soaked rags around my ankles before heading to the blackberry patch to pick Sunday’s dessert. I know cowboys that swear by the method of attaching a cow’s “fly tag” to the pull strap of each boot every spring. Others will wear a dog’s flea and tick collar around their boot, right above their spurs, as a deterrent. Another friend will “pour” himself with dewormer every spring, just as he does his cows. Yet, at the end of the day, we’ll all end up taking a bath in warm water, tinged with diesel fuel, or iodine, or creosote, or rubbing alcohol, or a hundred other home remedies that never are as effective as advertised by the person that said, “That’s the only thing I’ve ever found that works.”
Maybe, they should just take a lesson from my friend, Dwight.
Dwight farms a few miles from me and is also involved in the heavy-equipment business. This past spring found him in his shop, repairing one of his pieces of machinery, when he realized he needed a scrap piece from out in the field near his shop. He waded through waist-high weeds to retrieve the piece he needed and toted it back to the building. Upon arrival, he happened to look down and see the leg of his light colored, khaki work pants almost black with hundreds of ticks “heading north.” In panic mode, Dwight grabbed a pump bottle of “fly and tick spray” that he keeps handy for his horses. He soaked both pant legs with the entire contents of the bottle and, sure enough, the little varmints started dying and dropping off immediately. He brushed the remainder off with his glove and continued his repair job.
Less than an hour later, he headed back to the same spot to get a piece of metal that he was sure he could cut, with the oxy-acetylene torch, to replace a break in the metal. He was also sure the dampness of his pants legs indicated he was still “protected.” After bringing back the piece and firing up the torch, he once again looked down to view a newer, larger batch of ticks that actually made his pant leg look black. Mad, frustrated, and out of tick spray, he decided that a quick swipe down his leg with a flaming torch would singe the ticks away. Evidently the tick spray that he had used to soak down his legs earlier, had a petroleum base to it, because his legs ignited almost instantly. He did have enough sense to turn off the torch before grabbing the bottoms of his pants with the leather gloves and smothering out the flames. 
At the emergency room, the doctor declared that his injuries were only “second-degree” burns and he should be good as new in about a week. The good news was that he had absolutely NO TICKS. 
I heard him telling this story to one of the new neighbors that had moved to the farm next to his. He ended by saying, “It’s the only thing I’ve found that works for sure.”
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry call 1-866-532-1960 or visit www.ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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