Tick patrol

For me, generally, biting insects such as hornets, horse flies, black flies or other creeping or slithering critters are never cause for panic. Years ago, during my Navy days stationed in the South, an 8-foot-snake had terrorized the Married Officer Quarters, a housing complex where Diane and I lived. Reconstruction of the housing complex’s street drainage system had come to a screeching halt. The foreman of the project told me that his workers, who were standing around leaning on shovels, were on strike, as long as the snake insisted on slithering hither and yon about the neighborhood.

With a worker’s long-handled shovel, I dispatched what turned out to be a perfectly harmless black snake. What’s to be really afraid of, right? Unless, of course, it’s a black mamba or saw scaled viper.

Ticks, though, are a pest of a whole different magnitude. As we are beginning to learn, a deer tick can do lasting damage, infecting us with untold diseases, some that we still don’t totally understand or know how to treat.

These insidious, quasi-microscopic bugs scare the heck out of me, not so much for what they look like, but for their sneaky, pervasive nature and what they can do to me. 

The third week in April, while in the woods scouting for turkey signs, I took a break and sat on a stump. Dressed in jeans that day, my camo hunting duds treated with Permethrin were hanging on the clothesline back at the lake. Once in the truck about to head home, my inner voice told me that I had company. Looking down at my trousers wide-eyed, I, aghast, beheld at least 30 ticks all over my pant legs looking for warm places to hide and engorge themselves in my flesh.

Leaping from the truck, in full panic mode, I brushed and plucked for all I was worth. En route to my next stop, Home Depot, I begin to feel like the anchorman Chris Matthews, who said he got a thrill up his leg whenever Obama spoke. “Is something crawling up my legs, or is it my imagination?” I whispered to myself.

Bailing from the truck in the Home Depot parking lot, and dropping my trousers as discreetly and unobtrusively as possible, my suspicions were soon validated. They they were — six of them — fleeting about my lower extremities. Another brush and pluck session followed by a rushed shopping stop into Home Depot.

At my home, out on the back steps, I stripped down naked. “What are you doing?” Diane exclaimed as she opened the front door. “People will see you passing by from the road!” she scolded.

“Forget that. Check me for ticks,” I commanded.

Before washing my turkey scouting duds, Diane found another squad of ticks hiding in my socks. “Not to worry” she said. “They are only dog ticks, too big for deer ticks.”

A friend told me that, just by fate, I may have simply stumbled into a tick hot spot, a pocket of the tiny critters. Professor Jim Dill at the University of Maine Extension Service, who provides tick identification services for the public, said that last year at this time he had received only 14 dog tick samples from the public. To date, this year he has received 500 similar requests!

Word to the wise.

As for my tick encounter, as it turns out, my greatest threat apparently was not the ticks, but the chance of being issued not one, but two different citations from law enforcement for indecent exposure.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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