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Go ahead, play in the dirt — but watch out

Posted on September 14, 2021

OpinionColumns

Oliver Hedgepeth

Oliver Hedgepeth

Elizabeth, my lovely bride, can no longer eat beef, pork, lamb or any dairy products, such as all the cookies, lasagna, milkshakes, cheesecake — the list is long.

For how long? Well, her doctor says for the rest of her life, maybe.

What we have here is a case of the Lone Star tick.

Elizabeth and I have had our share of ticks, like most of you and your friends and kids. We see one and we pull it off, very carefully. You must pull onto the body of the tick gently to get that bugger out in one piece.  Otherwise, it can leave a poison in your body running all around your bloodstream.

Our house sits on a one-acre lot, with the back yard running into a freshwater stream and a forest. So, you know we have our share of deer and bunnies. They all want to eat our tomatoes, peaches, apples, blueberries, blackberries and corn, plus those giant watermelons.

I will not plant those next year. Did not know that four watermelon plants would turn into a 30-foot diameter jungle full of all sorts of crawling and slithering things. I have a lot of bug spray, too.

Elizabeth also planted more than 30 varieties of flowering plants in front, back and the sides of the house. Oh, and her rose garden only has 24 varieties of rose plants in it.

The grass gets high now and again. Cutting it is my job with my two John Deeres, one of which is 50 years old. I did not get to the grass as much as should be done this year due to all that rain. That means the grass got high. That means that those pesky weeds got higher.

That means that ticks have wonderful places to hide in her flower gardens and attack Elizabeth.

Picture Elizabeth in our one acre of trees and flowering gardens sitting on her garden cart pulling weeds or picking flowers for the kitchen window and living room coffee table. She looks like one of those photos in summer catalogues and Southern magazines of a white-haired woman wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed straw hat, flower clipper and cute little shovel.

Oh, she does have rubber gloves to wear. She sits on them inside the garden cart. She would rather feel the stem of the rose, trying to avoid the many varieties of thorns. She always gets stuck too. I keep bandages handy and help apply then usually by noon when she calls it quits.

All her activity with exposed arms and legs does one thing: it beckons ticks and other biting critters. She has always just said “No big deal.” But, three years ago, the tick she pulled off left a memory of itself in a little red volcano that spread out and back and itched like the dickens.

Then in April, she got another tick and did not see it for a few days. We both worked on it and got it out, head and all. But it was a Lone Star tick.

The result of his bite is that she can no longer eat beef, pork, lamb or anything made with dairy products. She can eat only chicken and seafood.

If she does eat these forbidden foods, her whole body from neck to toes turns red with splotches and red patches that itch. And there is no cream or medicine to stop this severe itch.

Why am I telling you this? Because my wife does not want anyone else in Wilson to go through what she is going through. And, yes, with these food changes, the itches have subsided — not stopped — and the red, painful area is minimized.

This condition has a name: Alpha-gal syndrome. It’s real.

Keep your grass cut short, and when you’ve been out playing in the dirt, come in and inspect yourself all over for tiny brownish/black hitchhikers!

Ain’t summer grand! Well, yes, it is.

Oliver Hedgepeth, a native Wilsonian, is a professor of logistics who is teaching online at the American Military University. Email him at blh4835@gmail.com.

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