Here’s something I can say without remorse or equivocation. I hate ticks. Regular old dog ticks are bad enough. They find their way onto my socks and pants in the fields and make their way up my body until something tickles my skin and smack: I find a tick right there on my body or up the back of the neck.
You can’t kills the little fuckers easily. Squashing them with a finger doesn’t work. They take the pressure and keep on walking. They look up at you with their little tick-tock eyes and squint back as if to say: Fuck you. I’m a tick. You can’t kill me.
This makes me respect ticks even as much as I hate them. Their ability to grab onto prospective hosts is enormously impressive. Once in Colorado I stepped off a highway to look at some distant mountains while wearing shorts. Within seconds there were ten to twenty ticks crawling on my bare legs. Ticks are the professional magicians of the natural world.
Back in the days of attending Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, I often went running or birding in the woods. One late afternoon I laid down in bed to rest after a training run and felt a bump or two on the top of my head. Four fat dog ticks were embedded in the skin of my scalp. They were already engorged with blood. I trekked to the campus health clinic and a nurse plucked them off with tweezers.
That. Was. Gross. Absolutely gross. I hate ticks.
Thanks to my rad hairstyle these days, that tick infestation could no longer happen. I buzz my hair so close no tick has a chance to hide long enough to do its dirty work. Being bald has its advantages. Plus I haven’t paid for a haircut in twenty years.
My other gross tick encounter happened back in 2003 or so. I had gone for a run in the morning and started out on an extended bird walk in the fields north of St. Charles. For three hours I wandered through woods and wet fields counting birds for the Audubon Spring Census. I was already dealing with wicked case of poison ivy from an unfortunate brush with a plant rich in oils that spring. My left leg was covered with pink calamine lotion to quell the itching.
That meant I didn’t quite notice that a new source of creepy feeling inflicted my leg when I got home. That afternoon when I peeled off my pants to change for a run I noticed a tiny tick embedded in the skin just below the knee. This was not a fat old regular dog tick. This was a dreaded deer tick. The kind that carries Lyme Disease.
I dug that little bastard out with tweezers and soaked the already itchy leg with a bath of antibiotics. It was too late. Within a couple days there appeared a ring rash, a halo of red inflammation just above the patch of poison ivy infection covering my shin.
I rushed to the doctor and received a prescription for antibiotics to fight off any chance of Lyme Disease. As far as I know, that treatment worked as I don’t have any symptoms that would indicate the disease got hold of my system.
To say that these days I’m super-sensitive and hateful toward ticks is beyond an understatement. I’ve picked them up even while running out at the restored prairie near my home. The little buggers grab onto my shoes even when I’m sticking to the limestone trails. Then they hang on for dear life until I get home. Patient like terrorists about to attack a target, they sit still letting their bloodthirsty little brains work on the idea of sucking my blood. They are as crazy and persistent as horny 20-year-old males lusting after women.
But once things settle down and their target lies still, they start to creep and crawl, sometimes navigating multiple layers of clothing, even passing under a waist belt in search of the perfect soft spot to stick their suckers into the skin.
I hate ticks. They’re too perfect at what they do.
Have I told you that I hate ticks? Hate. Hate. Hate. Nature is merciless in its creation of parasites and pathogens. That is not the result of a Fallen World or Original Sin. Religion has nothing to do with why ticks are so doggone good (and you should always check your dog for ticks) at latching onto bodies of one kind or another. They are highly evolved to do what they do best. Millions of years of trial and error drives ticks to suck your blood. They feed on it. Live on it. Then they drop off leaving you with something horrible if they can.
Nature didn’t need God to create ticks. It is perfectly capable of doing it all on its own. That’s why we also have perfectly awful human beings among us as well. Bloodsuckers and liars. Some of them crawl up the chain of human society to feed on a nation and its citizens.
You know who I’m talking about. So do others.