Monday, September 7, 2015


There are moist areas around lakes and sometimes near berry patches that harbor a tiny creature called the chigger. The chigger is barely visible to the naked eye and is variously known as the harvest mite or red mite. Whatever its moniker, when its feeding tube enters human skin, a few hours or maybe a day later, the victim will know that she has been the object of a mighty attack by a bug that creates unbearable itching.

That hike to the elusive Lake Dimmick, somewhere near Sewanee, Tennessee and described in my previous blog, not only ended in a never-to-be found body of water, I, and only I (not the intrepid botanist who led the exploration) was the prey of an army of chiggers that hid in the grassy non-trail I dubbed the "road not taken." 

Friends who have suffered similar assaults have recommended everything from oatmeal baths to baking soda soaks, but I'm still scratching through nights of insomnia and when morning comes, I arise making vows not to make an annual hike in 2016. Yesterday in church, heads turned as I squirmed through the service while seated on a squeaking wooden chair, resisting the urge to scratch in places that would have required near un-robing. I was only glad that I didn't have to preach yesterday as the listeners would have had to watch body contortions more like a revivalist preacher and most unlike an ordained, dignified Episcopal deacon. Just let me get home and scratch, I kept praying.

This morning, after I had slathered cortisone cream on the myriad places where the chiggers had left their enzymes (so I read), I decided to sublimate the itching with a bit of doggerel. Although I've omitted some of the expletives that I've been expressing, the doggerel will have to suffice as part of my treatment for wounds from the Chigger Rebellion. I won't repeat what I said to Dr. Sullivan for taking me on the Lake Dimmick hunt and exposing me to the army of red mites that lay in wait for someone who is allergic to everything except typewriter or computer keys, pens, and paper to record such nonsense as follows:

There's so much vigor
in a red-headed chigger
smaller than the head of a pin;

such trouble they trigger
as the welts grow bigger
and violent itching sets in.

They're really not catching
once you start scratching
hither, there, and therein

wrinkles and folds
and some crotches I'm told,
violating most delicate skin.

I know the truth begs
that a mite with six legs
stays with you through thick and thin,

but at 1/150th of an inch
it's clearly a cinch
you'll always know where it's been.

I apologize to Robert Frost for the bad rhyming, but at least the bit of poesy rhymes, and he's the poet who disdained free verse, saying that it was like playing tennis with the net down. Doggerel probably places the net at least a foot aboveground.

Hoping your Labor Day does not include a hike in moist areas near a lake or berry patch. The bites are more than a mite bigger than the bugs!

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