Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Venue of Vultures--and Creepy Crawlers

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.
"Oh, where?"
"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.

To those who have persevered through this tirade, I leave you with a photo of a terrapin which J. hastened across the road before it could be smashed by a car--the fate of one just up the highway.
It is the second live one he has found.
A neighbor, stopping to chat a few minutes earlier, had mentioned them.
If you are from around here, you need to call it a "tar-pin."


  1. Urrggggggggghh to the ticks. That's one thing you weren't expecting to be "enjoying", right? Over here they are associated with Lyme's Disease which they pick up from Deer. It is not nice to have (qv) so perhaps worth checking this out with your Doc? Not wishing to panic you or anything - perhaps you are in a relatively deer-free zone.

    We get them in this country - especially where there are sheep, and perhaps where you are walking through heather and bracken. When I worked with horses and the hunters picked one up, I used to apply a lighted cigarette to them - they sizzle very satisfactorily and will let go with their jaws. Sometimes the cats get one here - I no longer smoke - and just grab them with tweezers.

    P.S. you can keep your vultures too!!!

  2. Another P.S. - If you smothered yourself in Vaseline the ticks wouldn't get a hold!! There, just what you want from April till October!!

  3. Not one of the up sides of moving to Kentucky I think! Ticks are horrible things, I've never had one but the animals have picked them up occasionally. Some of them carry Lyme Disease I gather - I hope your local ones aren't among those. I hope these awful things aren't going to spoil your summer.

  4. Oh dear! Ticks. I don't want to worry you but they do cause Lyme disease which is a very nasty and long enduring thing -- weakness fatigue etc. Can you get your large area of land sprayed for ticks, just once? I'd hate to think of you laid up. Your hubby is right. They need to come out and the area disinfected. Sorry -- me, the worry wort.

  5. Poor you,

    But what a lovely {?} post about being indignant about the indignity of bugs on the bum. You did make me smile - sympathetically I promise - as I read this. Do the locals have a way of coping with the scourge of ticks.

    On the rare occasion I had a tick or two I have used my Dad's preferred option of rubbing them with alcohol. I'm not sure it's the best answer, but you do have to have some in the house - for medicinal purposes of course....

    J's toruser dropping anxiety attack made me laugh too but that's not a picture I would like to have in mind on a regular basis.

    Thanks for an enjoyable start to the day.


  6. While I sympathize with your tick plight, I have to admit to laughing out loud at several points, especially J dropping pants outside ( Oh, to live in a place where you can do this without a dozen people immediately surfacing to see the show...) and then you sniveling while cats parade around, nattering, during your surgical procedure...

    I know it's not funny, having to deal with those nasty ticks. But your writing has certainly brought forth the humor of the events, and I thank you for some good laughs to start the day.

    I wonder if there are any herbal remedies to repel ticks? Sort of like wearing a bag of garlic to repel vampires??? Well, best of luck on remaining tick-free! Too bad there has to be this headache to interfere with your enjoyment of your beautiful acres.

  7. Now you didn't expect to be attacked by ticks when you moved there did you ... good thing the cats are indoor ones as ticks LOVE cats. We only have a problem if an outdoor one decides to roam for a few nights up to the fields a mile or so away.
    Good luck with a defence system.

    That 'tar-pin' is so beautiful. I also find buzzards sort of ugly-pretty ...yes ...I know I'm strange lol

  8. We fight with ticks too, I stay out of the long grass but my husband has to be checked on a regular basis.
    The vultures sun themselves on our roof too, at my age I find that worrisome.
    My husband says your turtle is an Eastern Box Turtle.
    He rescued a pair last year, put them in our yard, where one promptly jumped in the water and left the other to wander off on its own.

  9. Since I also love to be outdoors, I frequently have ticks taking up residence on my body as well. They really like the new meat though. I don't get as many as I used to. They are nasty little parasites and can't say that I have any love affair with them. They aren't going to keep me indoors from April until October though. Persevere, it's worth it to enjoy the beauty of nature.