“Breaking news – tick and chigger season is here!” Believe it or not, this was an actual news story on my local TV news station last week. I kept waiting for their next bombshell, “News alert – the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow morning!”
Those of us who live out in rural areas don’t have to rely on astute, investigative journalists to provide that information to us. We know, and I know more keenly than most.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a critter magnet when it comes to the disgusting, pint-sized pests. As a child, I could walk, side-by-side, with my father, through woods and meadows, which would result in Dad having nary a single tick on himself, while I would have enough on me to replenish the planet in case a nuclear disaster ever wiped out the population. In late February of this year, just a week after we had experienced sub-zero temperatures and 10 inches of snow, I was walking through the woods in search of a cow, and lo and behold, I felt something on my leg, just above boot high, and guess what? Why me?
I always blamed my ability to attract the varmints on my naturally, sweet disposition, but way too many people have disputed that idea throughout the rest of my life, so I guess I’ll have to get rid of that argument, and make up something else.
When it was blackberry-picking time in my youth, I would get covered with the critters, to the point Mom would have to smear bacon grease all over my wounds to keep me from clawing my legs into tiny pieces. I can also remember my parents soaking rags in kerosene, and tying them around my ankles in an effort to keep the tiny biters at bay. It didn’t work.
Throughout my life, I’ve tried every spray and powder available to mankind to keep from getting ticks. I’ve attached fly tags to the pull-strap of my boots, soaked my pant-legs in de-lousing liquid, and purposely spilled cattle dewormer all over myself (don’t try this at home), all to no avail. How I’ve lived for almost 69 years without contracting Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or any host of other tick-borne diseases is a miracle in itself, but I’ve just learned to live with it.
I should add that the news story about tick and chigger season had a rather interesting twist. Evidently, the state entomologists want to learn more about the ticks that we’re getting around my neck of the woods, and instructed people who MIGHT get ticks, to pick them off, put them in a small plastic bag, and mail them to a certain laboratory. The local health department would even provide the baggie, free of charge, to help them with their research.
I plan on going by my local health department tomorrow and request a container to send in my ticks. A 5-gallon bucket should be about right.
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, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’