Difficult to get to the Laguna de Santa Rosa on a timely basis, even though it’s only a few miles to any location along it’s marshy banks. However, I have made a point to get out there at least a few times as the latest in a series of spring storms rumbled through. My first day back was spent walking a nearly one mile stretch of the Laguna, this after a mini heat spell reinvigorated growth of just about every living thing including:
Ticks are my Indiana Jones snake weakness. When I was a kid, the El Dorado National Forest was my backyard (no, really). Our house butted right up next to the towering Ponderosa pines that so distinguish it’s forest. One day my dad decided he was going to plant a conifer on a hillside that he said would stabilize the area in case of too much precipitation. He deftly made his way up the hillside, dug a hole in the red dirt and proceeded to plant the tree. After about 30 seconds of kneeling, he scrambled down the hillside, cussing (the air was blue with profanity) and started disrobing mid-slope, shirt first, hardhat next -he always wore a hardhat- boots third and pants fourth. I could see red ants crawling carefree, no, sprinting with unabashed freedom over most of his skin, biting. Fire ants! Big suckers too. He jumped in to our pond and rolled around, bull frogs and pollywogs scattering hither and yon.
Now you say, what the heck does this have to do with ticks? Patience, Obi-Wan.
After the great ant debacle, he asked me and a few of the neighborhood kids, Greg Weems, Jason Parrish, David King and my brother to head in to the forest to plant the remaining seeds. Well, the forest was a complete source of a great many critters. It also had a sluice way that we would dam up with a small kick board and ride the corresponding rush of water to a water tank. Anyway, the bank was lined with about every kind of brush, leaf litter, poison oak, pine needles, skunks, raccoons and deer. Not in that order. This is the prime feeding ground of ticks. After a fun filled day of riding the waves, throwing pine cones and dirt clods at one another we went in for the evening, because well, our parents were yelling dinner time.
Two days later, we were playing baseball on a neighbors lawn (which I got as much enjoyment out of as throwing dirt clods at my brother). I could barely raise my arm to catch the ball. No matter how hard I tried, pain would rack my back and shoulder. “Take of yer shirt, kid,” my dad said. It seemed that I’d grown another appendage, that of a tick which had burrowed deep in to the soft flesh of my left shoulder blade. My father who was skilled at everything, including surgery with a fish knife, lit a match, heated up the blade and promptly dug the pest out of my body. Savior, he was the McGyver of his generation. After a glob of Merthiolate on the wound, a bandage and a popsicle, home run records were back to being broken.
This leads me to surmise: I probably didn’t take many showers, loved baseball and was always covered in poison oak.
As for ticks? Well, they still like me as evidenced by the eight I pulled off my body last Tuesday at the Laguna.