April 24th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Tick Phobia

By Al Campbell

With springtime just around the corner, I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to meet a creature that makes my skin crawl. I'm talking about the tick; that nasty little creature that loves to crawl up your pant legs and burrow into your hide for a fresh meal of blood. Just the sight of a tick on my clothing or skin makes me feel like things are crawling all over my body.

If the only thing a tick ever did to anyone was drink a few drops of blood, it might not be so bad, but these nasty creatures are common carriers of some real nasty diseases like Lyme Disease and a few fevers you don't want to catch. Even if they didn't have a reputation of carrying diseases, they would still make my skin crawl. I guess you could say I have a phobia about them.

I suppose I'm not alone in my hatred for ticks, but that doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, I can't understand why God created them in the first place. I suppose it's some kind of penalty we must pay for messing up the world we live in, but if I had the choice, I'd get rid of ticks permanently. They have led to more than one embarrassing moment in my life, and I'm sure they'll create a few more before I leave this earth. Here are a couple of the most embarrassing ones for your entertainment.

When I was in college, I invited a friend to spend spring break with me and my family in Montana. Springtime is a great time to observe bighorn sheep and elk in their winter habitat, and some of that habitat is close to where I grew up, so we took a day trip to the mountains where my friend could observe these animals in their native habitat.

The weather was warm enough to leave our coats behind as we climbed the hills searching for wildlife. We managed to collect some great photos of sheep and a few shots of elk before the sun started to dip toward the western horizon. What we didn't realize was that the day had been warm enough to collect a few other things we hadn't counted on.

That shortcut through the willows along the Sun River was probably where we picked them up, but by the time we reached the car, we both felt something crawling on our arms and legs. I looked at my shirtsleeves and pant legs and saw hundreds, or maybe thousands of ticks crawling around looking for a free lunch. Further investigation revealed that there were just as many ticks crawling around under our clothing as there were on the outside.

It was a remote place, and we hadn't seen another person in the area all day, so we took off our clothes and started shaking the ticks off. I don't mean we just took off our shirts and pants, we took off everything and started shaking it all out to remove any stubborn creatures looking for a meal.

I was busy waving my pants in the air when I heard someone laughing behind me. Not being wise enough to just look over my shoulder, I turned around to see a man standing there with his wife and two teenage daughters.

"Ticks." I said as I lowered my pants to cover certain parts of my anatomy.

"Yea, ticks." is all Tom could say as he hurried to cover his most revealing features. They didn't hang around to discuss the situation, but we could hear them laughing as they walked out of sight.

By the time we had cleared our clothing of unwanted guests, and picked a few strays off our bodies, the air had chilled enough to see our breath, but we didn't feel the cold. The red in our cheeks wasn't from the cold either. If I ever visit that place again in the springtime, I'll have plenty of insect repellent with me. If it happened again, the next people might not find the situation as humorous as those people did.

The first year I lived in South Dakota, I discovered Sheridan Lake and the good fishing it had to offer. My first hike from Dakota Point to the lake also led to another discovery; ticks. I must have stumbled into a nest of the little pests while hiking back to the car. By the time I reached the parking lot, I felt something crawling on my legs and looked down to see dozens of the unwanted creatures working their way up my pants.

I was busy slapping them off my pants when I heard a young voice say, "Mommy, that man is acting strange."

"Stay away from him son." The mother replied. "Now you know why I told you not to talk to strangers. You never know what kind of drugs some folks have been taking."

I didn't reply. It wasn't the first time my tick phobia had caused a problem, and it wouldn't be my last. Sometime I'll tell you about the time a tick attached itself to the part of my anatomy I sit on, and the trouble I had reaching it with tweezers, but that will have to wait.

If you see me somewhere in the woods slapping at my pants or doing a strange dance, don't worry about me. I've learned about stripping my clothing off to rid myself of pests, but I still brush them off as fast as I can. Just pass me by and tell your kids something about the dangers of too much sun. That's a lot easier than explaining tick phobia. ~ Al Campbell

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