Summer hummers, bummers around the corner

Kathleen Marsh

While getting ready for Memorial Day weekend and a houseful of family coming to Otter Run, I took a mid-morning break and headed out to sit a bit on the porch swing, cup of coffee in hand. It was an absolutely beautiful day. The lake was calm and the trees almost fully budded. I was enchanted by a swallowtail butterfly checking out my white lilac bushes, truly savoring the moment. Summer hummer.

Suddenly, a nasty deer fly decided my skin is easier to penetrate than my pet deer Sedona’s hide. It chose the wrong victim. I tried to warn it, but it kept coming back. It was ever so persistent until it was ever so dead. I wasn’t quite that skillful when it came to combating the black flies. Those critters are quick and mean. Though they don’t carry lethal pathogens (yet), they will happily bite any exposed area, sometimes attacking right through your clothing.

One of them got me good on the back of my neck. I knew by nightfall its bite would become a painful bump that would last for days. Ouch. How could I be so foolish as to not protect myself with insect repellent? I took a quick timeout to apply Maggie’s Farm, a natural product I like. I was oozing energy so I grabbed my gloves and worked in my garden.

I spent two hours weeding flowerbeds, dead-heading daffodils and lightly pruning my Canadian purple lilac bushes which are spectacular when they bloom in June. Once again, I was totally enjoying myself when a cloud of gnats enveloped me. Good thing these tiny beasts are just a nuisance. Nevertheless, I played defense, keeping my sunglasses on and my mouth shut (for a change).

I have no idea how I managed to attract that wood tick. Seriously. I do know it would have become quite attached to me if I had let it. Nope. We parted company at once; me to fetch rubbing alcohol and it to take up residence in my septic tank along with four of its brethren who had also found me quite irresistible this spring. Yes, I could and should have sprayed myself with DEET, but that stuff has a terrible reputation. Cancer or Lyme’s Disease? Take your tick — I mean pick.

Later, when the dinner dishes were done, the kitchen cleaned up, the laundry folded and Jon happily watching a western, I took what was left of my glass of Riesling and motored my tired body out onto the deck. The Strawberry Moon was taking its good-natured time rising over the Flowage. I couldn’t decide which was more breathtaking, the picture-perfect moon or its sparkling reflection on the rippling water. I sat down in my comfortable rocking chair, sipped my wine and thanked God for being able to live in such an incredibly picturesque place.

It was nirvana, until the mosquitoes arrived. They are voracious that time of night, hunting in swarms. I was going to re-apply my Maggie’s, but I decided I was too tired so I went inside and got ready for bed.

After my shower the next morning, I noticed a small black spot on my left forearm, just a couple of inches up from my FitBit. Oh my God! A deer tick had burrowed into my arm unnoticed. I wasn’t sure how long it had been there, but I managed to tweeze it out, disinfect the bite and apply an antibiotic ointment.

The next morning, the skin around the bite was discolored and the red area had expanded. Knowing medical assistance was at least an hour away on a holiday weekend, I decided to try telemedicine. In a few minutes, the nurse on the other end calmed me down, told me to use epsom salts twice a day and keep a close watch on it. A doxycycline prescription at Nicolet Pharmacy would be waiting for me on Tuesday. Kudos to her and all the providers who work weekends and holidays to deliver fast and convenient health care in situations like mine.

The tick bite started to improve within a few hours of using the epsom salts, which I utilized faithfully in a soak/poultice regimen. On Tuesday, I picked up the two prescribed tablets, and by Wednesday, the bite had shrunk to a quarter-inch circle. I think I’m good to go, but I’ll get a Lyme’s test in a few weeks just to be on the safe side.

So this begs the question: Why is it that, when it’s summertime and the living should be easy, obnoxious insects have to ruin everything? Why must they bother you, bug you, bite you, make you sick, or even try to kill you? Summer bummer.

Kathleen Marsh is a lifelong educator, writer and community advocate. She has published eight books, four on the history of Townsend, where she and husband Jon are happily retired on the beautiful Townsend Flowage.