The Mast-Head: Lurking in the Grass

The cold months had not affected the resident backyard annoyances in any meaningful way that I could discern

    Thanks to a spring that has seemed somewhat cooler than usual, the grass, weeds, and fallen twigs that are our lawn have been slow to get going. This meant that I was able to put off taking the rusty old lawn mower out of storage until Sunday.

    Not being one to put such things away properly for the winter, getting the old mower, which is not much to look at, going again each year involves a few first steps. A short length of wood takes the place of a start-stop cable long since rusted away, but, after an oil change, fresh gasoline, quick blade-sharpening, and a check of the spark plug and carburetor, it started on the third pull.

    The cold months had not affected the resident backyard annoyances in any meaningful way that I could discern. In fact, it appeared that both were thriving. The tri-lobed leaves of poison ivy, red at this time of year, have climbed around the dog fence and into the trees, and their fragments spun out into the air as the mower went past.

    Ticks of at least three varieties found their way on board as I went around the yard and driveway margins. It was not until later that evening when I was, appropriately enough, at the movie theater with one of our kids watching “Spider-Man 2” that I found the last of them crawling across my skin. Under the light from my cellphone, my daughter Evvy and I had a moment of panic as it fell out of sight, re-emerging on her hand before we dashed for the lobby to deal with it.

    It has been bad so far this year for the dogs. One was treated for Lyme disease a couple of weeks ago and the other was similarly diagnosed just this week after she  became listless and stopped eating. And Lyme is hardly the only tick-borne problem we have to contend with.

    A number of other diseases, such as babesiosis, are transmitted by these relentless pests. And three members of my extended family (including me) have the red-meat allergy associated with the bite of the lone star tick.

    Keeping lawns mowed short is one method the experts advise to limit one’s chances of tick bites. Unfortunately for those who do the mowing, this simple chore puts us right in harm’s way.