Jerry Nelson: Tick season back in full swing

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Image of the author.

They’re ba-ack!

Those horrifying, good-for-nothing, cold-blooded pests have returned to bedevil us once again, frightening small children and giving adults the heebie-jeebies.

No, I don’t mean the political campaigns. I’m talking about ticks, and not the kind that are associated with the word “tock.”

I’m always the first one at our house to learn that tick season has arrived. I’ll be riding my recliner and watching TV when an unnerving, hair-standing-on-end sensation suddenly arises. A feeling that has nothing to do with the scary movie that we’re watching.

I’ll pull up a pant leg or a sleeve and discover that a tiny, eight-legged blood sucker is striving mightily to negotiate my forest of hair follicles. Being on the furry side can have its advantages.

I’ll spirit the rascally arachnid off to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet. I then wonder if some ticks might be able to survive the environs of a septic system. Perhaps I’m inadvertently creating an army of super-mutant ticks that can thrive in the sewer, much like many of our politicians.

I don’t recall dealing with ticks when I was a kid. I’m not saying they didn’t exist; it’s just that I never personally donated blood to any tick’s cause.

Perhaps this is because we, like most farmers at the time, had free-range chickens running around the place. Chickens are industrious little scamps. They’re perpetually patrolling, constantly on the lookout for a delectable tidbit.

This is conjecture, but I would like to think that chickens find ticks delicious. Perhaps they taste like chicken.

If our chickens were indeed responsible for controlling the local tick population, it would be flipping the script on the pesky parasites. The ticks’ plans involved dining on us. The chickens instead dined on them and we humans, in turn, ate the chickens. As a great philosopher once said, karma is a bummer.

We billeted our nephew Adam on our family’s dairy farm for the summer when he was a grade schooler. Adam is a bit older than our two boys. We were already set up for riding herd on a pair of rambunctious rapscallions; it took little additional effort to care for and feed one more.

At some point we noticed that Adam had a marble-sized lump on the side of his neck. It was located at the spot where one would install the bolts if one were building a Frankenstein’s monster. We examined the lad and discovered that a tick was embedded in his scalp. The bug was already somewhat engorged.

We carefully removed the icky offender and showed it to Adam. He insisted that he be allowed to squish the little varmint on the sidewalk.

The fact that he wasn’t the least bit grossed out by this was a harbinger of things to come. Adam eventually became a nurse and has had a long and successful career in the Army. That he has risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel seems to indicate that tick’s proboscis hadn’t penetrated his cranium.

Our farm dogs routinely accumulate collections of ticks. When I was in high school, we had a Labrador/German Shepherd crossbred named Smokey. Ticks often latched onto Smokey’s ears during the summer months.

I would command Smokey to sit still for a tick check. When the exam/tick removal process was over, I would declare “no more ticks!” and Smokey would run in circles, vocalizing joyfully. You would think that she had just won the lottery.

The only way to avoid tick encounters is to remain indoors. This is not an option for me when we finally get some fine gardening weather. I would rather take my chances with the tiny brown pests than cower fearfully indoors.

Besides, my wife and I have a system: After I spend some quality time outdoors, I’ll take a shower and change clothes. But before I put on my clean duds, I’ll present myself to my wife for a tick check.

After all, it’s near-impossible for a person to carefully examine his own backside, even with the help of a mirror. That guy in the glass keeps spinning around before I can get a good look.

I’ll stand still in my boxer briefs as my wife performs a quick inspection. I’ve learned not to request this service when in public, even if I’m dead certain that something creepy is crawling on my skin.

After my wife examines me, she will cheerfully announce, “looks good!” and I’ll feel an overwhelming surge of joy, as if I had just won a large sum of money in an underwear modeling contest.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.