2012-10-04 / News

The Island Garden

No exploding ticks in my yard
BY ROGER MARSHALL

I was cutting the privet hedge last week, unconcerned about the pieces I was clipping off the hedge. They were piling up behind me as I slew the monster privet. (Did you know that privet can grow 3 to 4 feet in one year? In Jamestown it often does, or so it seems.)

At lunchtime I took a break and went indoors. The latest Jamestown Press had just arrived and I read it while having lunch. The second lead story was about a scientist who had predicted that the Jamestown deer tick population was about to explode.

I finished the paper, finished lunch, and wasn’t too concerned until I went back outside. Were there deer ticks in my hedge? Did I need to wear more than shorts and sandals? What if a deer tick landed on me? What would it feel like? I inspected my white T-shirt and flicked off several pieces of dirt wondering if any of them could be a deer tick that might explode. I scratched an imaginary insect off my head.

Would I feel it if the tick exploded on me? Would it be like being hit by a speeding wasp? You know, you’re riding your bike and a wasp makes a beeline for your mouth or eye. Splat – you know about it for a week. Would an exploding deer tick feel like that?

With some trepidation I went back to cutting the hedge. But I took precautions. I inspected the entire hedge to make sure there were no deer hiding in the bushes. After all, deer ticks have to have deer, right? I looked for whitefooted mice – they’re supposed to be an alternate host. But I never saw a normal-footed mouse, let alone a white-footed one. I did find several empty Budweiser cans though. Maybe deer ticks like their Bud – or was that the deer?

I put on a clean white T-shirt, white pants and white shoes. That would allow me to see any deer ticks that might explode. I assume an exploding deer tick would leave a red stain like a mosquito does when you mash it on the wall.

I went back to cutting the privet. My hedge goes on forever, so the population of deer ticks must be humongous. But I never saw one. I watched carefully – I scratched every little bite or possible insect. In fact, standing on top of a ladder while trimming the privet is not the easiest time to scratch a potential tick bite. But scratch I did – and not once did I fall off the ladder. (I’ve fallen into the privet hedge before. It hurts, so I don’t do it anymore.) I did cut the electric cord four times, and repaired it four times. It is now a 93-foot cord instead of a 100-footer, but it still works. Just don’t pull on it too hard. If you do, the hedge trimmer stops. But mashing the tapecovered repair back together gets it to work again. At least for a few more minutes.

When I finished work for the day I went for a swim, figuring the cold saltwater would waterlog any deer ticks before they could explode. After the swim I went home and took a long hot shower. Surely no deer tick could stand a saltwater bath followed by a long hot shower. It must have worked because none of them exploded. In fact, I never saw a deer tick at any time, but I do have this funny red rash. It looks a bit like a bull’s-eye. Maybe I’d better get it checked out.

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