By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
It’s warming up and Nature is dressing appropriately to herald springtime. A lot of people are eager to get outdoors for fishing, camping, hiking, cookouts, some in their backyards, some in the Ouachita wilderness—which at Briar Circle is pretty much the same thing.
By all means, go outside! But when you do, keep in mind, certain encounters are inevitable. You will encounter mosquitoes, horseflies, dog flies, ticks and chiggers. You will likely meet scorpions. You might run into venomous snakes, bears, coyotes and even mountain lions.
Here’s some advice for dealing with these situations:
When you visit the forests, bring some insect repellent that’s at least 20 percent DEET. Don’t bother with anything weaker. Use the spray liberally on your clothing and bare areas, and rub some on your face and the back of your neck.
This will keep the mosquitoes away and will help discourage horseflies, dog flies and other sorts of biting flies that will visit you by the hundreds the moment you step out of your vehicle. If you aren’t protected, you will slap yourself silly trying to kill them.
The repellent helps. If you are fishing, it is amusing to hit them just hard enough to disable them, then tear a wing off and throw the fly upon the water’s surface. This way, you feel a satisfying sense of revenge when you see a fish get a snack that has likely been flavored with human blood—your blood, in fact.
This is pleasantly entertaining for everybody except the biting fly, but it’s the only thing positive that can be said about getting tangled up with them.
Ticks and chiggers infest tall grass, weeds and other vegetation, waiting to climb onto you when you pass by. Be prepared. Douse yourself with the 20 percent DEET stuff. Wear long pants with the cuffs tucked into your socks and wear light-colored clothing.
It makes the ticks easier to see and remove before they find a nook or cranny on your body you don’t want them fooling around in. And you will see them, too, if you spend any time outdoors. If you are camping, it’s not a bad idea to spray the tent, the camp chairs, your shoes and the like with permethrin, but don’t get it on your skin.
And do a daily “tick-check”. Check your hair, under your arms, your legs and other attached parts of the body (you might enjoy doing this with a friend), and check the dog and kids, as well. When you find an imbedded tick, get the tweezers you remembered to bring and grab it as close to its head as can, and pull it straight out.
You might have to dig around a little for the head, if it detaches, but it’s something you probably want to do. It’s not recommended to grasp the tick’s body between your fingers when they’re attached to your skin. Squeezing them causes them to regurgitate their tick-juice into you. It is an incredibly small amount of fluid, to be sure, but it can still infect you with some tick-borne ailment.
Chiggers are inevitable, too, and are another argument for bug repellent. The best way to get rid of chiggers is with a hot, soapy shower. If that isn’t an option, rub yourself with a towel. They are almost too tiny to see, but you will know it soon enough when chiggers are feasting on you.
You won’t know it until the itching starts, though. There are plenty of over-the-counter medications to treat assorted bug bites that help relieve itches and stings, so bring some with you and keep them handy. When your trip is over, wash your clothes in hot water. Ticks can survive this, but they’re less likely to survive the “hot” cycle in the dryer.
Scorpions are simply a fact of life around here. Check your surroundings. They are active mostly at night, but they can be in the woodpile, under the rock your kid turns over, the sleeping bag, the outhouse or anyplace else. If you see one and aren’t barefoot, just step on it. I usually don’t bother them, but sometimes, execution is necessary. Unless there’s something new on the market, insecticides do little good.
If a scorpion gets you, try a cold compress (i.e., an ice-pack), elevate the part of your body that was stung and take an aspirin to ease the pain.
There’s more, but I’ve reached my word limit. We’ll take this up again next week.