Really Ticked Off


Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


Really Ticked Off


Some people fear ticks because they might carry Lyme Disease.  Others fear them because they are hard to spot on your outerwear and may crawl into your inner garments.  If and when they attach themselves to your flesh and begin to seek a blood meal, they are hard to pull off without breaking off a leg or two.  All valid fears, and all based on real happenings.  Ticks are nasty little creatures.  And although they don’t move very fast, there are so many of them eager to attach themselves to dogs, deer, and homeowners mowing their lawns; that they get their fair share of attention during breakfast conversation. There are about 850 different species of ticks, worldwide.

The Footloose Forester has contemplated the dangers of ticks and their possible consequences more than most people.  He spent more than 50 years working in the woods where various species of ticks were present and seemed to thrive without any practical repellant strategy to reduce the risks.  Long before the various species of ticks carrying Lyme Disease became a regional concern in the Eastern Seaboard states, he had to contend with the Rocky Mountain spotted tick that carries Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  That threat was prevalent throughout many states in the Rocky Mountain region, and he spent a fair amount of time in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and elsewhere in the West.  He was never victimized by Rocky Mountain spotted ticks, but he had too many episodes with other species of ticks, in other places.

The Footloose Forester came back from a trek through the National Bison Range outside Norman, Oklahoma with a few dozen ticks on and under his clothing.  Knowing why and how to avoid brushing through vegetation of any sort, and consciously avoiding those circumstances, did not prevent him from coming back to his Advanced Artillery Training barracks at Fort Sill, loaded with ticks.  It was a bit anguishing to attend to them in the presence of a dozen or more other soldiers who shared their large barracks room.  And since he didn’t know any of the other soldiers well enough to ask them to inspect his bareback and private parts, he had to withdraw to the relative privacy of a bathroom stall, small mirror in hand, to attempt to discover and then remove all the ticks that remained since his earlier surreptitious inspections of his body.  Luckily, he seemed to have found them all, and he did not have any consequences.

The tiny ticks that crawled up, dropped down, and hitched a ride onto the clothing and the body of the Forester Forester in Venezuela presented a special problem.  Although he had the privacy of a hotel room in which to conduct his inspections, his count of over 200 ticks on his body was so alarming that he decided that he had to take drastic action to ferret out those that may have been on his back and in posterior crevices.  What to do?

Somewhat sheepishly, he knocked on the door of the hotel patron who occupied the next room.  He was a young British researcher who was also conducting research in the same watershed where the Footloose Forester had acquired his many ticks.

Perhaps it was his completely simpatico understanding of the problem that led the Brit to agree to pick the ticks off the back of the Footloose Forester.  We didn’t keep count of the number that he picked off, because the total number was already over 200.

As it turned out, the Brit asked the Footloose Forester for a favor in return.  He had lost an expensive sports shoe the day before, at the site where dugout canoes normally beached to drop off and take on their research passengers upstream in Rio Caparo.  The Brit stated that he did not intend to go to the field the following day, but the Footloose Forester did, and he intended to debark at that very same place along the bank of the Rio Caparo. The next day, the Footloose Forester found that sports shoe at the exact location that was described.  One good turn deserves another.



The relatively big wood ticks in New Jersey were easy to detect


There are various species of ticks and they come in various sizes.  As a consequence, the ticks in the woods of New Jersey were not a problem because they were so big and so obvious that you could even feel them on your clothing, so taking them off your bare skin was not difficult.  In later years, the Footloose Forester became acutely conscious of their presence, wherever that might be.

Unfortunately for his four dogs in Viet Nam, the most commonplace that dog ticks were found was between the paws of their feet.  When they were first discovered in the webbing of their paws, all four dogs resisted having to go through the daily inspections.  But getting relief from tick bites was worth the trouble, and eventually, all of the dogs looked forward to the routine of looking for ticks between their outspread paws.

Since moving to Virginia, our family has been apprised of the problem with ticks during all of the warmer months of the year.  The concern is justified…last year a man assisting a tree topper in the lot across the street counted 27 ticks on his clothing, after spending just 20 minutes in the woods adjacent to an open lawn where the tree was being topped.  And the Footloose Forester pulled 31 small ticks off after just an hour or so in the wooded area across from where we live.

We do full body inspections after we spend a day outside, even after mowing the lawn or working in the garden.  What ticks us off, however; is the fact that the usually tiny deer ticks we find in Virginia can go unnoticed for a couple of days after we have made what we thought was a thorough body inspection.  That, and the fact that the tiny Virginia ticks can leave an angry red bump at the very spot that they were picked off; a reminder that despite their small size, they contain enough poison to make you itch for a full fortnight.  Now, wouldn’t that tick you off? 

Cory Lee Carter's Experiences in the Young Men's P...
Why Legacy Matters to Estate & Succession Plans


Already Registered? Login Here
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment