by Cassondra Murray
Are y’all feeling good after Jeanne’s yummy-smelling perfume blog yesterday? Well, brace yourselves, because I’m fixin' to replace that good-smelling afterglow with somethin' worse’n a pot o’ cabbage boilin’ on the stove.
For any of you who have NOT smelled cabbage cooking, “stinks” does not even begin to describe it. It’s enough to turn you against green plants and gardens in general.
I’m just warning you. So if you think you can take it, go right ahead. Read on.
No, I am not blogging about stinky stuff.
Well, then again, maybe I am, in a metaphorical kind of way.
Y’all remember the malt vs float blog from last month, right? The one where Jeanne and I chose sides? (I was float, she was malt.) That’s one point on which my evil twin, the dear Duchesse Jeanne Pickering Adams, and I, part ways. Another point on which we differ is that she prefers winter. She likes to shiver. I, on the other hand, hate to be cold, and am a shameless hoyden for spring and summer—oh and a nice long, unseasonably warm autumn that lingers until mid-December.
It doesn’t bother me at all to have the heat, as long as it’s not a horrid drought. People say, “but it’s a dry heat!” And I say, “so is hell.”
And it doesn’t bother me as long as I can get relief, when I want it, with air conditioning, a tall glass of lemonade or my grandmother’s sun tea (sweet tea, of course, as anything else is just wrong), or even a nice cool glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
Jeanne hates the beach. I was born with a palm tree in my soul.
In most other ways, we are indeed evil twins.
I’ll sit on the porch, sipping my icy beverage, and gently “glow” (that's ladylike country talk for "sweat" in case y'all didn't know) into the long summer evening as the sun sets in a streaky purple and cerise-colored sky, and the lightning bugs flicker across the tall fescue in the pasture. Jeanne will be fanning and wanting to go inside where it’s cool.
That love of summer firmly established, I admit that there is one thing about summer which I am never loathe to see pass.
Do you have chiggers where you live?
I hate chiggers.
For you lucky souls who do not have chiggers where you live, and may not know their entymology or (sarcasm alert)the joy of having multiple chigger bites on your body, all itching at the same time…well…let me just say right here that chiggers are NOT ticks. And since we’ve known about Lyme Disease, and especially since Brad Paisley came out with that song about ticks….
I’d like to see you under the moonlight
I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks
I’d like to walk with you through a field of wild flowers
And I’d like to check you for ticks
…..Well, ever since that, ticks have gotten way more than their fair share of publicity.
Honestly. You can see a tick when it’s crawling on you. Even the itty bitty deer ticks, though they take a bit of concentration to identify. When you take off your clothes at home and shower, you’re quite likely to notice a tick trying to make its way up your leg. I have a reasonable level of hatred for ticks (and most other things with more than two legs which attempt to crawl upon me). But that is honest parasitic advancement, in my opinion.
Chiggers, on the other hand....chiggers are sneaky.
Do you know what chiggers look like?
Probably not,because you can’t actually see the microscopic little buggers, but if you’ve ever had chiggers, you know what I’m saying. I had a picture of a chigger all ready to post, but I decided against it. I figure y'all have computers, and know how to use Google. If you want to know what these little critters look like, it's just a Google search away.
Ahem...back to the point...
If you’ve ever picked blackberries, I’m guessing you know all about chiggers.
Wild blackberries are my favorite summer fruit. I grew up picking blackberries with my family every summer. So one summer just after Steve and I got married, I was feeling all sentimental about my childhood, and when I got the chance to pick blackberries, I took it.
A friend of Steve’s had several acres, and each year he used his riding mower to mow paths around the clumps of wild blackberry bushes, or “vines” as we called them in Southern Kentucky.
I suppose these paths of short lawn-like grass gave me a false sense of security.
We spent the afternoon, and I came home to our tiny apartment with a gallon of the incredible rich, sweet-tart fruits, and my tummy already full from eating them straight off the vines. But by that evening the red bumps started to show up.
I was covered with chigger bites. Steve counted 120 itchy red bites on my body. I was miserable.
For you who are lucky enough to NOT know, most chigger bites happen in the spots where your clothes are tight. Chigger bites aren't actually "bites" you see. And they're not terribly dangerous.
The teensy little mites simply move into one of the hair follicles in your skin-- and there they set up housekeeping for a few days. A few very itchy days.
They prefer the hair follicles in restricted areas. Like the crease under your breasts where your bra rides. Isn’t that a fun place to have red bumps that are itching like fluttering hell-bats from the pits of doom?
Or your tummy where the waistband of your pants rests. Oh, and the best place of all--the elastic legs of your panties. Yeah. They congregate there--where your body moves and bends—and in places like your ankles, just under the bands of your socks.
And that movement? That just makes them itch all the more.
And there is Nothing. You. Can. Do. About. It.
Like Measles or Mumps or the flu, they have to just do their thing. Run their course.
The “experts” say they gravitate to those spots because they like the dark--areas of tight clothing. Me? I think they just go as far as they can go and most of them stop right there, where the clothing gets tight, and it’s too bloody much trouble to climb any further. And that’s where they dig in.
If I were a chigger, that's what I would do.
Lazy little sorry critters they are.
Of course, “dig in” is wrong too, according to the experts.
I suppose I owe it to the experts to say that chiggers are a mite-like thingy. And it’s the larvae which are the trouble. They look nothing like larvae to me. They look more like a tick, in their larval stage, actually. A tick you cannot see. Otherwise, the experts say, chiggers, or “harvest mites” of which there are more than 30 species (oh JOY!) don’t cause any trouble. It’s just that larval stage.
They say if you go home and shower immediately you can wash the chiggers off. I have not found that to be the case. Showering has never helped me because the chiggers have already found their spots and sandbagged themselves in.
I’ll spare you the details of their actual activity while in your follicles. The point is, they itch like all heck.
People have said for a long while now that if you paint over the chigger bite with
nail polish that it’ll kill it—that it can’t breathe then . I suppose it does appeal to the logic, doesn’t it? The idea that this layer of shellac-like nail polish suffocates the itchy little demons to death.
After all, if I’m going to itch and suffer, I’d like for the cause of it to suffer along with me.
However, being from strong country stock, as I am, I’ve never believed this. And this is one point on which the experts agree with me. They say this nail polish trick does absolutely no good.
I don’t know what I think about the experts and their opinions about chiggers. They may be right. Or not.
That evening so many years ago, Steve painted all 120 of those chiggers with pink nail polish.
When I was a little girl, my parents would get me ready to pick blackberries in the following way: First, I had to wear long pants and long sleeves. Then they took a kerosene—yes, kerosene—dampened cloth and swabbed it around my wrists and ankles.
And you know what?
Nary a chigger.
That’s right. It kept the chiggers away. And given the negative qualities of DEET, which is the only kind of insect repellent which will keep chiggers away, I’m not certain the kerosene was any worse.
But that day when I was first married, I had no kerosene, and the blackberry picking was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I thought only briefly about chiggers, then I determined to be careful.
Ha! Chiggers give no heed to careful. They jump—yes, according the the experts, they wait on vegetation and jump toward their intended hosts.
This past June I cleared the weeds away from the flower bed around my mailbox. Tall weeds. Lots of them. And guess what?
That evening Steve counted 116 chiggers on me. And he painted them with clear nail polish. I told him I thought that didn’t do any good. He said just in case it did, we should paint the chiggers.
I itched for three days.
I hate to see the end of summer, but the one thing I do not mourn is chiggers. They can freeze their little chigger hienies off with the first frost. Jeanne, you are vindicated.
I hope they go to the darkest corner of chigger hell.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Are there chiggers where you live?
Have you ever had a chigger bite?
I’m not allergic to poison ivy. Are you? If so, what do you do to stop the itching?
I have a selfish motive here, because I’m writing a scene in my latest manuscript like this….have you ever read a scene in a book where the hero or heroine was all itchy?
Hmmm…it doesn’t sound all that romantic, does it?
Are you a summer person like me? Or are you like Jeanne—a winter person? Do you look forward to the greening in the spring? Or to the first frost of Autumn, when the bugs get their comeuppance?
It’s the end of summer. Are you glad? Or are you sad?
And did you ever pick blackberries?