I parked the van next to a medicine man. I didn’t immediately see him, I just saw the large amount of stuff hanging out of his aging Ford Explorer. Turning off the engine of the homeschooling version of a school bus, I let the eighty-five degree heat of the afternoon smack into me. I looked around my surroundings. There was woods, woods, a distant mobile home, woods, and a large tractor mowing the grass in the ditches in the distance. Ten minutes out of town was essentially the middle of nowhere. Then I noticed the medicine man. I’ll admit, the title of Medicine Man may have been a leap of faith.
He was sitting in the back of his SUV, with the back window popped open. I could only make out his silhouette through the tint, but it was evident he was sitting perfectly still, staring out at the woods. A carved staff was in his hand, held out horizontally.
I went ahead and got the kids out of the van, starting to have second thoughts about the whole excursion. We walked around to the head of the trail, standing behind the large wooden sign that displayed the trail map a short distance from the SUV. I was busy thinking to myself: Where in the hell is the rest of the group? They need to get here before Medicine Man wakes up from his trance.
The Schooling Begins
As luck would have it, they did. A group of friendly strangers unloaded from many vehicles approximately five minutes later. Children frolicked over to the head of the trail to join us. The group of fellow homeschoolers commenced their walk into the woods to achieve a particular goal for the week: Locate and learn about seeds.
Where Medicine Man left vibes of questionable intentions hanging in the air, these ladies all exuded kindness. I felt safe in my pack. Making it only a short distance into the woods, multiple cans of bug spray were whipped out. Clouds of bug poison wafted toward us, and my kids coughed, scampering to escape it. Someone was already complaining about the yellow flies.
City kids, I thought as the kids and I walked onward happily, swatting a yellow fly here or there. There is that saying, “We should be rigorous in judging ourselves, and gracious in judging others,” or “Judge not and you will not be judged.” But who takes advice from solid, time-tested sources, right?
It wasn’t long before it was decided that the walk was concluding due to bugs. It was to be relocated to a place about a ten minute drive back into town, to a little state park with well-maintained property. We didn’t mind too much—there might not be a medicine man there.
The kids spent a bit of time trotting about the mowed property, locating seeds that can be scattered by wind, animal poop, pod explosions, etc. It was a lovely afternoon near a nice heavy smell of salt water and steeped in late afternoon sun. It was then that I noticed some creepy-crawlies meandering across my hands and arms. Just a few stray seed ticks. I flicked them off, thinking how we would do a careful inspection at bath time.
The Great Tick Examination
A careful inspection indeed. It took an hour just to cleanse the tot. The wise thing would have been to immediately soap ourselves down all over once getting home. Unfortunately, wisdom often seems to be acquired by experience. Sometimes, itchy experience. The poor tot evidently got into a tick nest, and after bath time the six-legged arachnids had already attached themselves. All seventy-one of them.
The number of times I have said “hold still” in my lifetime was duplicated in that one hour span. The boy was the flashlight holder, shining down the best light for finding the pin-head sized little beasts. Asking the boy, being five, to hold the flashlight was kind of like asking a puppy to hold it. Every five seconds it was swiveling in another direction. Somehow, we got them off. The boy managed to only harbor one. I was a bit more popular, collecting approximately twenty.
Those city kids had the right idea. Thank goodness we didn’t go any further, I might have been picking ticks off all night. And who knows, maybe Medicine Man was the modern day Buddha, and I’ve missed out on obtaining enlightenment because I was too scared to approach his SUV/house. Who knows? I’m just fine keeping it that way.
And now I will be spending the rest of my evening itching and scratching.