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Another Day in the Country

My 4-year-old grandson thinks that coming to Kansas is just as exciting as visiting Disneyland in California. His 40-year-old mother does not exactly share his opinion. While she enjoys coming to Ramona to visit us, she’s a little skeptical about the things that Kansas offers in the summertime.

First of all, Jana hates chiggers — those little infinitesimal red bugs that raise such havoc with her sensitive skin. While chiggers have decided to ignore me to the point that I don’t even register their existence any more, they hone in on Jana like a bomber landing on the Mother Ship.

We’ve tried all kinds of things to discourage chiggers because we have Schubert imports, jokingly called “fresh meat”, coming back to Kansas every year for family reunion. We want them to enjoy their visit and not be miserable for weeks after, scratching, scratching, scratching.

To combat the chiggers, we’ve tried any number of sprays. We’ve tried cow tags around our boots (which was Tooltime Tim’s favorite remedy). We’ve tried garlic strings around our ankles and garlic pills. One year our Cousin Cathy even brought extra garlic anklets to give out to her kin. We’ve tried baking soda in your socks and even bug dust. We’ve tried those little rubber anklets infused with bug killer and snap on plastic discs which are supposed to protect you from any known predator — all to no avail. I’ve even sprayed the lawn with bug killer; and sprinkled pellets; but let’s face it, we have a lot of grass area in Ramona and can’t cover it all.

My daughter came to the conclusion years ago that she would solve the problem herself by NOT walking on the grass. A gardener at home in California, where chiggers don’t abide, she has to go to great measures to stay away from the grass (and the chiggers) in Kansas because in a small town grass even grows in the road. Tiptoe, she does, through the rough areas where she can’t help but come in contact with something green and “Stay on concrete” is her mantra.

I, myself, swear by Skin-so-Soft oil slathered on daily. It’s a wonderful moisturizer and it works for me; but she has no faith in it. Even with all of her precautions, she still gets bitten. Luckily, the number of bites is small enough to count. She laughs and says, “I may be careful, but I have this little 4-year-old carrier who brings them to me.” She’s right, our playful boy wallows in the grass with great delight and lucky for him the chigger damage is minimal.

We discovered several years ago that chiggers are not just a Kansas phenomena. They happen other places, too, even in the water. We were vacationing in the Caribbean and Jess was looking forward to going snorkeling.

Out in the boat they went and when they got to the spot for the adventure the guide said, “Oh, there is one small problem today (one being inaccurate and small being a euphemism). We have something in the water that we call “no-see’ums” and you may get a few little bites, the guide said with a careless wave of his hands, “no problem.”

Gung-ho Jess dived in with the rest of the group and with one accord they all levitated back out of the water, like putting a movie into reverse. “What do you mean, ‘no problem’,” they hollered. “It was like being stuck with little pins all over your body at once,” our horrified Jess, said afterward. “And we thought chiggers were bad!”

In anticipation of my daughter’s arrival, I always think of things to do — most of them play, and some of them projects. But, I forget about chiggers and the anti-grass routine. We probably won’t be picking the corn together. Mowing the grass is questionable even though my grandson loves the zero-turn. Our nature walks are limited to pavement. No hiking through the pasture and down by the creek.

“It’s another day in the country,” I mumble to myself, “and I guess we won’t be transplanting the iris while they’re here, even though I could stand the help.”

Last modified Aug. 17, 2011

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