The pond, in chiggerless days.

The pond, in chiggerless days.

We’re grateful for any rain we can get down here right now, but I’d forgotten over the past couple of years what an explosion of mites the combination of summer heat and moisture produce. Daily, my wife and I make the 3/10 of a mile trek to the mailbox to fetch our Wal-Mart fliers, credit card invitations, and cologne-heavy sale notices from a mall we’ll never visit. From the mailbox we walk through an overgrown old tobacco field, and then down a steep path through the woods to the pond. In the heat of midday it would be stupid to try and swim: There’s no shade until around 6:00 p.m., and my wife burns easily…me, somewhat less so. But we stop by here to feed the fish. It makes for a nice short break before my wife returns to work and I start preparing lunch. Lately, however, the chiggers have been out. Their presence in our crotches over the past couple of days has led me to study and reflect upon them.

When I was a kid, if me and the cousins strayed into a crop of redbugs at my Grandmother’s farm, she would without hesitation apply the popular 19th century remedy for just about everything (butter) directly to our nascent genitals. I count myself lucky that I only developed a slight interest in much older women, unlike my cousin Joel, who made a life in sales out of it. We now know that butter does nothing but soften the tissue so the chiggers can inject more enzymes into the tissue surrounding a hair follicle, and mop up the resulting puddle of dissolved skin cells with an array of porous brushes mounted on their face. I know this specifically because my wife has the scientific mindset, and she encouraged me to read about them so we could get some relief.

Well, I couldn’t find much. And it started to occur to me if the itching (bordering on pain, now) weren’t so intense, the mutual slathering of our genitals in butter might provide at least some vestige of therapeusis, and it might even have led us to consider embarking upon an exercise regimen for a few minutes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

But at least the experience has taught me a couple of things:

1.) Regardless of what the literature tells you, chiggers are visible. They gain access to you from your ankles or shins. At this point they look like a sprinkling of ground pepper moving inexhorably up the leg in search of erectile tissue, proud flesh, or sweaty, dark crannies. This is your last, best chance to slay them. My wife developed this strategy, and if you’re thorough, you may only have one or two bore into your nutsack (or labia majora) and telegraph unwholesome messages to you during your next Powerpoint presentation: You have to quickly find some wet mud and scour the bastards with it until you are in pain. This will either rend, crush or drown them. If you are a healthy adult, chances are slim that you will develop Guinea worm or septicemia.

2.) Benadryl.

3.) A veterinary dissociative, such as Ketamine.

4.) Morphine.

5.) Heroin.

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