Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Chigger Fighter: A dream

From an NIH website:   Chiggers are tiny, six-legged wingless organisms (larvae) that grow up to become a type of mite. Chiggers are found in tall grass and weeds. Their bite causes severe itching.

I provided the definition because I don't know if chiggers exist in the great white north, I don't know if people in colder areas are familiar with them.  I've lived in the northern reaches of the USA and in Europe and I don't remember chiggers.  It could be that they don't survive places that have winters cold enough to kill off the bugs.  Or it could be that I was a little older and tended to wear shoes.   When I was a young child in Kentucky I spent a lot of time not wearing shoes, and I was very familiar with chiggers.  They're little critters you can't even see - and by the time you realize you've run into them, it's way too late. Nothing dangerous, but uncomfortable.

Anyway there was a person who was a free lance chigger fighter.  He waged war on them, but because of state regulations he was not allowed to kill them or cause them harm, at least not on purpose.  He had to have a chigger fighting license, attend a bi-annual week long chigger warfare refresher course, and provide a safe place place for the chiggers he captured.   He was subject to occasional inspections, and made the chiggers available for scientific study upon request.  The state government paid him a modest stipend for these services. 

He had constructed a chigger friendly habitat in a small room in a corner of his house.  He didn't know how many chiggers he had, but he could pick up their habitat with one hand, put it on some scales and see that it was slowly gaining weight, even accounting for the ones the state removed.  He scale was sensitive, to 1/100th of an ounce, and he often wished he could afford one that measured to 1/1000th of an ounce, but he couldn't justify the expense.

He lived in a small house out in the country, close to the road on a very sharp curve.  The curve was at least 200 years old, and the reason why there had to be such an unusually sharp curve at that exact point had long been lost to history, especially after the courthouse where all the county records were kept  burned down some 80 years earlier.   The locals new all about this curve and generally slowed down.  But every now and then someone would come along who didn't know the road, would ignore the signs or for some reason would take the curve too fast.  He had years of ruts in his yard from dozens of cars whose drivers failed to negotiate that curve in varying degrees of disaster.  Usually the cars didn't stop.

One evening - the classic dark and stormy night - a driver was driving much too fast, missed the curve completely and crashed through the wall of his chigger prison.  The collision smashed his chigger habitat.  There was nothing to be done - undoubtedly some chiggers were killed, but undoubtedly some, perhaps millions upon millions, had been set free - released into the environment, including his house.

The next few days were spent dealing with his home owners insurance, being interviewed by state chigger control officers, filling out the state required "Incident of Chigger Death" forms, and obtaining prescription antihistamines to deal with the itching.  Weeks after his house was repaired & his chigger habitat had been recreated, after having been denied permission to fumigate his house because the chiggers were deemed too valuable for research, he visited a neighbor, someone he knew would do a little bit of black market fumigation for a price.  He hated to, felt guilty in fact, but gracious those little buggers could bite and they reproduced quite nicely in a nice warm house with lots of nooks and crannies to hide in, faster than he could capture them.

He suffered through a mild depression for weeks because of everything that happened after that car crashed into his house, and because of the incessant itching. 

After the illegal fumigation he redoubled his chigger warfare efforts, so that at the inspectors would not be suspicious the next time they came around.  Also he got the county to install a guard rail on that curve, and the county managed to get it funded through a state chigger warfare subsidy grant.  Things returned to normal, and he continued his struggle against the chiggers. 

He lived a long life, and after his death a resolution initiated by his state representative was passed in his honor, a medal honoring his years of chigger fighting was issued posthumously,  his next of kin (a nephew who lived across the country and hadn't seen him in years) received a plaque and the state flag which flew over the state capitol building on the day the resolution was passed.


Patti Anne said...

Too bad you couldn't have posted a "chigger" picture along with this.

A Valdese Blogger said...

They're just too dang small.

Patti Anne said...


Karen said...

I am amazed at this! I, unfortunately, encounter chiggers when pulling weeds in our yard here in Indiana. I paint them with clear nail polish and they go to chigger heaven.

A Valdese Blogger said...

When I was little we had some sort of lotion to take care of 'em. I remember being told not to scratch, and it's very hard for a little guy not to scratch something that itches like that.