It started with ant bites swelling into red bumps on my foot and thigh.
As if they sensed that a party had started, the chiggers joined in the next day.
First my left arm, which I scratched raw a few times before buying Calamine lotion, which only helped a bit.
Then something — a deer fly? Some other flying critter that specializes in sharp, fast stings or bites? — discovered the inside of my right ankle. I swatted it, it hurt, I swore, but thought nothing of it. Bug bites are so common as to not merit inspection.
Until the next day, when my right ankle displayed a bruise — yes, a bruise — three inches wide — yes, three inches wide. It doesn’t itch or hurt unless I press it. So I don’t press it. But it’s day three and it’s still bruised.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure my just-washed sheets became infected with chiggers, maybe. An edge or end often strays off the cot onto the floor, where my dogs sleep, or onto a dog as it slumbers. The same dogs that now frolic through new-green grass and weeds higher than Dwyn’s head, then come back to camp wagging their tails and covered in chiggers.
During chigger season I do not touch my dogs. No hugs, no scratches behind the ears, no petting. They notice. “Huh, why aren’t you petting us?” their brown eyes say. “Because you’re covered in $%^*& chiggers!” I reply, as if they can understand why I’m withholding affection.
If you haven’t read my chiggers entry from last summer, you don’t know why I hate chiggers so much. I’d learned to avoid them years ago while living in the house one nicely wet summer, when the grass on my three acres sprang to life and reached a few feet toward the sky, creating ideal habitats for these nasty microscopic critters that burrow into human skin. Aghast at the intrusion, skin then forms a protective volcano-shaped barrier around the chigger. By the time it starts itching, the chigger is long gone. Folk wisdom (which I usually respect) about nail polish and digging a cross over the center of the bump does not reduce the swelling or itching.
With a friend’s help, I just purchased cortisone cream to treat the swelling and itching, and sulfur powder to prevent future bites. The idea is to tuck cuffs into socks and sleeves, fill a sock with sulphur powder, and pat it on your clothes before wading through grass.
I’ve not tried it yet. We’ll see.
I now have chigger bumps in an armpit, a foot, an ankle, an upper thigh, the crease between the other thigh and my abdomen, my belly, and other neighboring parts that Americans just aren’t comfortable naming. Plus a puppy pile of two or three all in one spot on my back. Not too bad, compared to other monsoon seasons I remember.
This post turned in to a longer and more sarcastic (irate?) blog entry than I’d planned. When I had the idea for this blog post about chiggers earlier today, I thought that it would have two sentences under the headline:
The chiggers have found the Mother Lode.