Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Comeuppance

I haven't been recording much here and thought perhaps I should catch up a bit. So this first story in catch-up phase is about my comeuppance. But to have a comeuppance you must first have pride and this I had, in spades.

You see for years I've been telling everyone how "immune" I am to poison ivy. Yeah, I've been "immune" since I was a child. My first experience was exploring the banks of the Tygart River which ran behind our house. I wasn't supposed to be back there, wasn't supposed to be fishing but I was with some older boys (heck, I was only 5) and since I could go one city block away to the store for my mom, I guess she thought I'd be fine. Well on that exploration we came across some poison ivy, at least that's what the oldest boy said the waxy 3-leafed plant was and he was loathe to touch it. Of course he'd mentioned it because I'd just about gotten it all over my body wading through it. However, there were no ill effects and my life's journey of immunity stories had begun.

Now, you have to understand that in my childhood in West Virginia, Kentucky and western Virginia kids went everywhere and did everything from dawn to dusk, year round with breaks inside only due to extreme cold, thunderstorms, or police intervention. Many was the time that our "gang" of kids would come home from a day of running amok only to have some show up the next day virtual walking ghosts because of a head-to-toe coating of calamine lotion (the preferred remedy for the burning and itching of poison ivy). I never had such problems and my legend grew.

Then I went into the U.S. Army. Most of you know that almost all the training posts are in the southern United States. Poison ivy is endemic there and so are the demands by Drill Sergeants for low crawling, pushups and other down in the dirt exercises for mind and body. In one instance our whole company was brought to an assembly area and, in the dark, ordered to lay down in column and get some sleep. We all did so, many in a bed of poison ivy. Yours truly was one of the few who was not affected. Yes, the legend (at least in my own mind) grew!

Then, about 5 days ago, I realized that I had to do some "weed eating" using a motorized string trimmer, at Mom's place. Particularly bad was the area along side her two stairways from the garage to the house level. I was in a hurry, it was hot and so I took off my long sleeve shirt. Fortunately, I always wear long pants when "weed eating". Now this trimmer throws a bunch of stuff everywhere when it trims. My legs (in pants) are covered with plant material when I finish. This is especially true with fresh, succulent spring growth such as I was trimming. I did the chore put away the trimmer and went inside to clean up and fix Mom some lunch. Fortunately, I'm a clean guy and thinking that my arms felt a bit odd, took extra time and water to get them as clean as possible. They didn't bother me at the time but later...

My left arm started to itch. Then I noticed a rash. At first I was puzzled, you see I am sensitive to spruce sap and I'd been trimming a spruce tree with the chain saw but had my shirt on most of the time. I was careful, and couldn't understand how the "spruce sap" had gotten on my arms. Then I recalled just where I'd trimmed and went back for a closer look. There was the poison ivy.

As you can see the rash was pretty good. I had a few blisters, a real rash and yes, I scratched. Application of Cortisone cream only made the rash "weep". That's something Nana did not want to see! What had happened is that the trimmer's little whip cord had chopped the poison ivy leaves and stems into a fine puree which it then sprayed on my exposed upper arm. If I truly had immunity, this is about the best one could do to overcome that immunity. It worked and I did it to myself. I don't think I'll consider myself exempt from the poison ivy curse any longer.

Now treated with Roundup©, the poison ivy plants look as though they might be dying. However, I think a second treatment is in order. Also in order is a little more care with the trimmer and I think I'll also nix any further descriptions of the "legendary" immunity to poison ivy. I've been humbled.

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