Cheryl Hughes: Bugged
If you were a fly on the wall in my house, at the current time anyway, you would be in big trouble. Brother cat has become one heck of a fly catcher. At random times, he will jump straight up into the air, land, head jerking left then right, run, jump once more and pin the fly to the floor, where he wallers it around until it is no more.
I wish his skills transferred to other insects. Bugs of all sorts seem to gravitate to me. It’s been that way my whole life. I’ve been bitten or stung by the best of the worst of them. The list includes ticks, fleas, sweat bees, honeybees, hornets, wasps—both brown and red—fire ants and chiggers. So far, I’ve avoided spiders and wood bees, but it’s early days. Occasionally, I’ve wondered if somehow, I might have been bitten by the tsetse fly—native to Africa and carrier of sleeping sickness—because there are times when I can barely make myself get out of bed.
The bites I’ve gotten aren’t life threatening. I have never had a major reaction, just slight swelling and annoying itch; however, I do have a few unsightly pock marks on my arms and legs, thanks to the insect-infested area of my childhood, Ashes Creek.
By far, the worst of the worst are chigger bites. In the days of my youth, long before insect repellant was readily available, my sisters and I were given small buckets, sent to the nearby tangle of briars, and assigned the task of returning only when our buckets were full of blackberries.
Luckily for the chiggers, baths for us didn’t take place on a daily basis—water had to be heated and the wash tub filled—which gave the little red bugs plenty of time to lay claim to the prime real estate that was our panty lines.
The itch was maddening! Our stepmom would dab bacon grease on the raised bumps, which did absolutely nothing to alleviate the itch. Later on, someone told us to put fingernail polish on the bites, which did only slightly more than absolutely nothing. When I became an adult, I was fascinated to learn that people actually hunted the little demon bugs down and dug them out from the tunnels into which they had burrowed. Wish I had been privy to that information as a child. Today, I don’t go anywhere near tall grass without first spraying my skin and my clothes with deep-woods insect repellent.
I also have to use insect repellent if I go outside in the early morning or late afternoon. The mosquitoes are hovering at the door in wait for my exposed skin to show itself. Garey tells people if he decides to go trout fishing, he always takes me along, so the mosquitoes will leave him alone. It’s true, and science has finally discovered why mosquitoes gravitate toward some and not others. According to healthline.com, “Mosquitoes appear to be more attracted to people with blood type O than other blood types.” That’s my blood type. Lucky me.
I really don’t know why wasps stalk me. It may be my hair, which has always been an unruly mess of curls. My stepmom used to tell my sisters and me to brush the rats’ nests out of our hair. Maybe, she should have told me to brush the wasps’ nests out of my hair. Wasps have dive-bombed me countless times, going straight for my hair and going down my shirt collar, where they always sting me on my back. During the summer months, I always hesitate at the door, looking both ways before I step onto the porch. If I’m lucky, I spot them before they spot me.
Have you ever watched any of those survival shows like “Naked and Afraid?” If they drop the naked people off in the swamps of Louisiana or the banks of the Amazon, it’s not hard to predict who is going home first and why. It’s usually the contestant who proclaims, “I’m not tapping out for any reason!” From the comfort of my couch, I say, “Oh yeah, just wait till those mosquitoes get a hold of your naked little hiney! Let’s see who’s tapping out then!” (It’s quite easy to be smug about bugs when you’re sitting in your climate-controlled living room.)
You know, there are so many things they can implant just under your skin now, I wish they would invent a micro-chip that had the same capabilities as those ultrasonic pest repellers, like the one Garey takes with him when he’s hunting. Yes, I could carry it around with me, but it would be like trying to remember to take my cell phone, which I sometimes forget. I would be completely exposed, and my words would come back to haunt me, “Who’s tapping out now!”