Just itchin’ to get better
For a long time, I earned my keep as a reporter by paying extremely close attention to details. Seven years out of the news business, and I still notice details all around me, large and small. I even warn my students that if they are thinking about skipping school, they better find a place to hide and stay there. If they decide to venture out and about in town, there is a better than even chance I will see them. I’ll notice. It’s all in the details. It’s second nature.
So, why didn’t I see the poison ivy that I was not only yanking out of the ground, but that I was kneeling in — in shorts — and which I continued to kneel in for a long time? It was right there, under some sprawling coniferous shrub-type tree whose name I obviously don’t know. But the thing needed to be cut back and I had my trusty lopers and chainsaw and I was ready to go.
And go, I did.
I worked up a sweat all that Saturday afternoon, made two trips to the Owls Head stump dump and was mighty proud of my work when I was done for the day. No doubt, Jane and Kayla were pleased and relieved that I made it through my yard chore without a chainsaw accident.
I got up Sunday morning, feeling stiff and sore as I mostly do these days. It seems like it doesn’t matter if I lift 8 pounds or 80 pounds, the next day I ache. This is especially true for what used to be a couple of pretty decent rotator cuffs. Throw back three or four Vitamin I’s (ibuprofen) and I’m good to go.
Wandering onto the deck with a mug of coffee, I sat down, eager to let the early morning sun warm me. Jane joined me, sat down and promptly asked, “What’s that all over your leg?” The tone of her voice set off my radar.
Looking at my left leg, I didn’t see anything at first but my knee itched. Scratching it, I felt a grouping of little bumps on the skin. Looking a bit closer, I agreed with Jane that I was getting a rash. I checked out my right leg. Yep, a rash brewing.
“Must have irritated the skin when I was scraping around under the tree yesterday,” I said. “It’s happened before,” I laughed. Jane’s face showed no sign of humor whatsoever. She obviously remembered that “last time.” My memory, on the other hand, was being selective.
It was about 15 minutes later that the itching began in earnest. Thirty minutes later I was headed for a shower. By the time our daughter had greeted the new day, my legs were, as she declared, “disgusting!”
That is poison ivy, was the consensus. I was hoping it was not.
The poison ivy rash turned out to be generously grouped on both my knees. There was still plenty available for my shins, calves and, maybe worst of all, behind my knees. It was my knees, however, that went from looking “disgusting,” to the little boy at Hannaford’s declaring, “Mommy that man’s knees must be really sick.” My arms did not escape. Special thanks to my guardian angel for halting the spread of the rash at my lower thighs … always look for the blessings in life!
It wasn’t a pretty sight and I sent my sisters and one niece photos from my phone. The sympathy was underwhelming. “Gross,” “Oh yuck! Itch, itch, itch!” “Hahahahahah!”
I have only “caught” poison ivy twice in my life … first time was three years ago. Same MO … clearing brush, wearing shorts, sitting in it, would have sold my house for $1 to make the itching stop!
The medical solution for the manner in which I contracted this crud is to take steroids, prednisone specifically. Sure, spray on some calamine lotion and anti-itch potion, but take low-dose prednisone for six days and, presto! Poison ivy goes bye-bye. And with the prednisone, sleep goes mostly bye-bye for a couple of nights. So, too, does concern about what you eat, and when you eat it. I can’t imagine how I could afford the food bill if I had to take large doses of prednisone for any period of time. It energizes you, too, so despite the itch I accomplished all sort of chores.
Though school had finished for summer vacation, I still had a week to go and part of that time was spent interviewing students who had applied for our program. A parent accompanied each. Also present was Mrs. T., my right hand. She politely warned every visitor to, “Stand back! Watch out! Don’t shake hands! He’s got POISON IVY!”
I wore shorts the first day, long pants the second … got tired of the jokes about leprosy and I don’t think the sight of my welt-covered extremities did much for making kids want to join our team.
I have toured our property in recent days and now know quite well where the poison ivy is located. I plan to give it a dose of its own medicine and “poison” it. Were it socially acceptable, I’d call in a drone strike. Instead, I’ll employ a spray that I know will work, at least for this year. Maybe I will post the area near our property border along Ash Point Drive as a lot of people walk along that stretch of road. And the warning sign will be a good reminder for me, too.
So, here’s a toast to the rest of summer. May it be shorts weather every day. And may the ground on which you kneel or crouch be devoid of those shiny “leaves of three.”
Michael McGuire lives in Owls Head. He told Editor Dan Dunkle he would write a column every other week. Now he has to remember that.