Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In Which I'm Both Dorky and Disgusted
I was all set to write at length about my latest dorky obsession, The Duchess of Duke Street, which originally aired in the 1970s on Masterpiece Theater. Unlike P's family, my family never watched Masterpiece Theater on PBS. I was always vaguely suspicious of Public Television because I thought it was just for the American upper class. I did know about Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Austin City Limits. (When I was thirteen, I tried to run away from home to Dallas. I imagined that--while I was there--I would get to see Austin City Limits in person. Geography was never my strong suit.) But Masterpiece Theater was always obscure and intimidating to me. Must have been all the British Accents on Upstairs, Downstairs.
Over the past two weeks, I watched the first fifteen episodes of The Duchess of Duke Street on Netflix streaming (awesome, btw!). It follows the fictional adventures of Louisa Trotter (Gemma Jones), a common Englishwoman of the early twentieth century who decides to become "the best cook in England" and ends up owning and running a fancy hotel. (I know, you're probably yawning by now. Told you it was dorky--but I found it well done and very moving.) Now I must track down the other sixteen episodes so I can finish it. Though I fear that I know the way it all ends because I read this. Darn it.
Anyway, I won't tell you more because my attention has been firmly diverted by ticks. Ugh.
On Saturday, I made the huge mistake of sitting down in our woods to ponder life and gaze upon our puddle/pond. I found a most attractive log and was quite comfy for at least an hour. When I returned to the front porch, refreshed, I discovered no fewer than three busy ticks crawling on my clothes!
I had always thought that our veterinarian was just trying to make an extra buck by telling us we need to use flea and tick meds on our dogs all year 'round here in Southern Illinois. But here it is mid April and we're already covered up in them. Of course, now I realize that the log I was sitting on rests square in the middle of a deer path, quite close to the mouth of the pond where the deer can cross the creek. I was probably sitting ON a tick hive. (If ticks have hives--which I expect they don't. But the image seems appropriate.)
Sunday morning, Bengal discovered a tick in his ear while we were in church. That was fun. I confess that I lied and said I wasn't sure what it was--until I got him into the bathroom with the door firmly closed so no one could hear him freak out about it. Plus, I've found two more ticks snugly burrowed on my own extremities in the past two days. I'm beyond freaked out and disgusted.
Ticks look as though they've been around forever, don't they? I found lots of sites that wanted me to pay to find out exactly how long they've been around. But finally this link says that they've been around since the Cretaceous Period, between 65 and 146 million years ago. That's a heck of a lot of years on the side of the grisly little things. I expect only cockroaches have been around longer.
This guy has a picture of a 25 million year-old one in amber. (It's some anti-Darwin site that I don't really get--but the pic is useful)
Here's a nasty but well-documented and organized selection of ticks from around the world.
I haven't yet figured out what purpose ticks might serve except to spread disease--and disgust. I feel a stronger revulsion when I see a tick than I do when I see a spider. Though I can't ever remember seeing a spider crawling on my skin. At least spiders have the decency to be shy.
Tick bites can be painful, and ticks can be hard to remove. This site totally disavows the match method, which I use regularly. (i.e. light a match, let it burn for a moment, blow it out, then press the hot match head directly to the tick so it recoils from the skin) I confess that my constant shrieking as I dispatched one that way today meant that my hand wasn't very steady. And I was so panicked, I almost applied the burning match without blowing it out. So, true, it may not be a particularly safe method. But I'm sticking with it. Most folks recommend using tweezers.
Here's the bottom line on ticks: Don't walk in tall grass or the woods without wearing lots of bug/tick spray. Wash and dry your clothes as soon as possible. Check your companion for ticks (this part can be fun!). Remove any tick you find asap! No one needs lyme disease, paralysis, etc.
Finally. For the tick-lover who has everything. Uh, okay.