Chigger Magnet: Everyday Magic, Day 546

Some men and women and chick magnets. Me? I’m a chigger magnet. Take me out to the fields or woods with you, and you won’t need insect repellant or to beat yourself with a sock full of sulfur powder (an effective way to keep chiggers at a distance).

This weekend, at the KAW Council 30th anniversary weekend, I stayed mostly to dirt roads or wood-chipped covered areas near picnic tables. Yet a cheery walk on a path through the woods brought me into chigger-central. Although I didn’t get attacked by very many, their collective damage was more than enough, propelling me into my first-chigger-of-the-season mild allergic reaction. So while I was thrilled to the point of heart gymnastics all weekend, I was also carrying in me that rush-shiver of chiggers gone wild. Antihistamine and coffee helped, but mostly how happy I was lifted me through my mild chigger infusion. Yet when one chigger point of itch ignited, all the others ones did too, as if each was another crazy light in a pinball machine when the silver ball scored more points.

If you’re not of these parts or areas south of here, you might not know what chiggers are: inivisible-to-the-eye critters that land on the skin, inject some kind of enzyme into the unfortunate human, feed on that enzyme and then depart, leaving us to our agony. Well, it’s not agony for everyone. Some people hardly react at all, or barely attract the chigger; that is, some people who are not me.

So three days out from the chigger meet-and-greet, and after three nights of taking Benadryl each night so I could sleep and the allergic reaction could dampen down, I’m ready to head out into the world, almost good as new. But I’m not ready to walk through any grassy areas unless I thoroughly beat myself with the sulfur sock first or until sometime in late September when the chiggers, having conquered their giants, head on off into the sunset of the first cold snap.



So Friggin' Hot: Everyday Magic, Days 342-343

Ice water? Check. Sitting in front of air-conditioning with ceiling fan on high? Check, check. Bag of cold cherries? Happy check. Wearing as little as possible without embarrassing myself in public? Of course. One thing I’ve learned in my 32 Midwestern summers is how to get through summer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain up one side of a hot wall and down another. Summers in Kansas are hot, and this summer, the heat is blasting in a few weeks earlier than usual, making me yearn for Thursday’s forecast (high of 88!). Of course, the closer it gets to 100, the lower the humidity usually gets too.

Complicating or aiding — hard to tell yet — my first intense encounter with the heat is also my first intense encounter with fly-by-night poison ivy and chiggers. Gentle readers who don’t know what the chigger is, I won’t destroy your innocence, but suffice to say that black flies, no-see-ums and mosquitoes have nothing on the chigger. In a sense, being in Kansas is like living with the Fire Swamps of The Princess Bride but instead of ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size), quicksand and exploding fires, there’s chiggers, ticks and HOUP (Heat of Unusual Persistence). Walking out into the grass is a dangerous journey that will likely leave its mark on you for days to come.

Having been so marked, I’m now on steroids, which makes me both want to nap and run fast simultaneously, and buzzes my body in perfect tempo with the roaring cicadas (aren’t they early too?). The hotter it gets, the louder it gets: a.c., cicadas, movies we must watch to distract ourselves, and bags of ice we must hit with a hammer to break up. So I sit in the roaring echo of air and insect, my fingers wanting to type twice as fast as usual and my mind craving only cool water, and remind myself that sometime soon — maybe 4 a.m. — it will drop down to the 70s, and if I wake (likely, given the drugs I’m on), I will step outside and breathe in the moment of non-sauna living, then go back to sleep, dreaming of winter and preparing myself for the long stretch of summer.