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Archive for Sunday, July 13, 2003

What was God thinking when he created ticks?

July 13, 2003

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Trust me: the last thing you want to hear when you ask your husband to check out a tiny black spot on your abdomen is, "It's got legs!"

"WHAT?"

"It's a tick," said Ray, peering at the spot through a magnifying glass. "I can see its legs."

"Get it OFF!"

Actually, "Get it OUT!" would have been a more appropriate demand. What Ray couldn't see was the tick's head, which was firmly embedded in my tender flesh. Eeyew!

The ensuing operation was a blur of tweezers, alcohol, revulsion (both of us), whimpering (me) and "Hold still! I'm not hurting you!" (Ray).

I know God must have had a reason for making creepy crawlers, but I can't imagine what he was thinking when he created ticks ... or any of the blood-sucking creatures (mosquitoes, leaches, vampire bats) that prey on humans and other members of the animal kingdom.

My earliest tick experience occurred at age 5 when Grams approached me with a lighted match to extract a tick from my leg. Young as I was, I realized that removal of the tick had the potential to be worse than leaving it alone. Not to worry; Grams didn't attempt to incinerate the tick, she simply blew out the match and applied the hot end to the tick, which prudently withdrew its head from my leg in order to protect its behind.

Even worse was the tick encounter I had many years ago while combing our 2-year-old son's hair during a trip to North Carolina. I called Ray to inspect a growth about the size and color of your average grape that I discovered in Greg's curls. "What is this thing?" I asked him.

"An engorged tick!" he answered. "Yuk!"

Ray dislodged that tick while I was busy freaking out in a corner of the bedroom.

My irrational fear of creepy crawlers began early. As a child, I overheard a conversation between my mother and a woman who said that her father died from "a bug caught in his sinuses."

Even though I now realize what she really said was "a blood clot in his sinuses," I still have apprehension of a bug crawling up my nostril and lodging in my sinuses with fatal results.

Another worry was brought to my attention by my friend Jim, a retired sailor, who told me about a shipmate who got a bug in his eye that migrated to the back of it, requiring his eyeball to be "popped out" in order to remove the bug.

As if worrying about bugs invading my nose and eyes weren't enough, I have a further concern about protecting my ears. Mom once told me a bedtime story of cousin Patsy who had the misfortune to have a june bug crawl in her ear while she slept. Quickly awakened by the bug's ear-invasion, Patsy panicked and so did the june bug, which "clawed her ear into a bloody mess."

(Note: Shining a flashlight in an ear is supposed to lure a bug out. "I found myself in a tunnel," I can imagine the bug later saying, while explaining his near-death experience to his friends, "and I just walked toward the light.")

Although I was totally grossed out by the leaches attached to Humphrey Bogart in the movie, "The African Queen," I never thought I had to worry about that particular blood-sucker in the Midwest until I asked Ray if we had any of them around here. "Sure," he said, "almost all farm ponds have them."

"Did you ever get leaches on you?" I asked.

"Yeah, when I was little," he said.

He doesn't remember how his parents extracted the leaches, but I'm guessing they used salt (I've heard that's an effective procedure for leach-removal), and you can be assured that I'm going to have a good supply of that commodity with me the next time I go near the water garden.

I'm grateful that we don't have to worry about blood-sucking mosquitoes at our home in the country. It would take a mosquito the size of a 747 to fly in the zephyrs that whip across our land. In fact, it is so gusty on our hill that we've recently had a roof installed that is guaranteed to withstand winds up to 120 mile per hour. I suppose I still need to worry that an off-course vampire bat might fly in winds of that speed, but I'm fairly certain that no mosquito can.

It would be nice if, when God created ticks, he'd had the foresight to give them wings!

-- Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her new book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing mhgink@netscape.net.

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