Last Wednesday Morning, as I lowered myself sleepily into the bathtub, I noticed a brown fleck on my inner thigh--a big enough spot to be quite visible without my spectacles. Picking up a bar of soap I swiped it over my skin and eased back into the lavender scented bath. The spot remained and an irritable scrape at it did nothing to dislodge it. "I don't have a mole in that exact place," I thought crossly. The spot lifted with pressure from my nail and I flicked it away--only to notice moments later that it had landed on the edge of the tub and was oozing a tiny trickle of blood. My blood. It was a tick.
J. emerged from the bedroom as I toweled off.
"A tick has bitten me." I said in disgust.
"You shouldn't have picked it off," he said, instructionally. "You're supposed to stun them with something and they'll let go. You should have called me.""I wasn't expecting a tick. And I didn't recognize it first thing in the morning."
After breakfast J. began moving tools from the carport and tidying up. From the kitchen window I saw a "buzzard" land on the roof of the tobacco barn. By the time I reached the garden, camera in hand, the red-headed turkey vulture had been joined by a friend.
Vultures [familiarly called buzzards here, although they are not] are not handsome birds. In Kentucky there are nearly always serveral wheeling overhead, sometimes circling far out, frequently sailing noiselessly close.
Vultures clean up carrion--roadkill--which in our countryside consists mostly of unlucky possums. A vulture that is threatened will regurgitate a nasty mess of half-digested food. While I doubted that the birds would actually hurl at me from the barn roof, I stopped at a discreet distance and tried several degrees of zoom.
Back at the carport, telling J. about the "buzzards" I raised one sandaled foot and then the other to rest on the edge of the brick planter, while I brushed off bits of grass. A tiny brown spec moved across my foot. Another tick.
J. cornered it and crushed it.
"You can't wear sandals", he said, "The grass must be full of them and you're always tramping through it."
Nothing else seemed to be walking on any bare skin, so I grumpily got my watering can and began to sprinkle the tomatoes and flowers lined up near the brick planter, waiting their turn to be put in the earth.
I was startled to see J. throw down his tools, rip open his belt and drop his jeans to his knees!
"You've made me paranoid", he said sheepishly, "I thought something was crawling on me."
Glancing over at this astonishing performance I commented [most unwisely] "You can't possibly see a tick on yourself--you're much too hairy."
I was invited to help with the tick search, a suggestion I politely declined.
We went on with the day's work. I put on socks and shoes each time I ventured beyond the porch or carport.
We dutifully looked up information on the web regarding ticks. One website suggested helpfully that people who live in areas inhabited by ticks should stay indoors from April through October.
Others suggested dressing defensively--to the extent of wearing long pants tucked into high socks, long sleeves secured at the wrist with heavy elastic bands.
Some sites recommended stunning an embedded tick with various solutions, startling it with a match that had been lit, blown out and quickly laid upon the tick. Still other authorities admonished that the only safe removal was to grasp the body of the tick with tweezers and twist until the whole thing let go.
Somehow I managed to almost convinve myself that my tick encounter had been a random, one-time thing.
On the way home from Bowling Green next day, I ran my fingers through my hair to loosen it after removing a hair clip. There was a tick imbedded in my scalp. As I undressed for bed that night I discovered that two ticks had quietly taken up residence on my posterior. Yanking grimly with the tweezers, I got one out. I couldn't reach the other. As I hopped on one leg, J. thumped down the hallway.
"Do you have another tick?"
He shooed me down the hall to the bedroom, commanded me to lie face down on the bed. I curled in a dismal heap, listened to him collecting his battery of instruments.
" I don't want you jabbing at my backside!" I said furiously.
[J.'s mother, sister, several aunts and cousins, several nieces have been/are RN's, LPN,'s a PA. He has a certain amount of sang froid when it comes to these matters, although most of his practical experience was in treating the cows on our dairy farm.]
J. glared over his reading glasses, brandished the tweezers.
No help for it--I rolled over.
I managed to work myself into a state of mild hysteria.
"Be still," commanded J.
I sniveled. Jemima, the small girl cat, came and sat on my head. Eggnog walked back and forth along the edge of the bed, nattering anxiously.
The more I considered my humiliating predicament, the more I wailed.
[Be it said here, that I seldom do cry. I can't seem to indulge in a good fit of woe or pique or rage without some distinct part of me hovering on the sidelines and saying reprovingy, "You are really making an ass of yourself!"]
There was a sharp tweek, the clatter of the tweezers landing on the night stand, a minute sting of alcohol.
"I'm not finished," said the nurse-person, "I'm putting charcoal poultices on all your tick sites."
I heard a faint gritty sound as the contents of several charcoal capsules were mixed with a few drops of water. Blobs of the black mixture were applied to the bite on my head, to the original one on my thigh and to the several on my backside. Large bandaids were laid over the charcoal.
We have bought tick repellant. I have daubed it on my shoes, my socks, the top of my head, my wrists. I have worn jeans, shoes and socks outside. I have inspected myself several times daily--always when coming in from the garden.
Still I come in with these unwanted parasites attached.
Ater pruning the grapevines, I removed one from my shirtfront, another as it trespassed across my belly. J. had to twist one off my collarbone.
Tonight in the shower I scraped off yet another.
J. has had two ticks--one which "bit" him and one which he apprehended as it progressed up his arm.
I'm not sure why I present such a vulnerable target.
What a pestilence! Unlike the unloveable vultures, the ticks seem to serve no useful pupose.
I think they were watching me watching them.