Once Bitten, Twice Shy

 lawn bagOriginally posted 03-14-2011  

Yesterday I decided I needed to get out in the yard and do a little cleanup. As much as I enjoy yard work overall, I prefer planting, transplanting and collecting fruit and seed to performing general maintenance. But the fact is, maintenance has to be done to enjoy the other aspects of gardening later on in the season. It is amazing how fast shrubs bud out, vines twine and perennials pop up from the ground once the days grow longer. Waiting another week or two to trim trees and rake the leaves from my beds would prove to be a tad more difficult to accomplish at that time. Besides, since March 15th is the average day of the last frost for this area, it only makes sense to do the prep work now and the planting a week or so later. It is just too risky to plant annuals prior to March 15th in North Texas.

So, I begin my day on Saturday by rolling out of bed and putting on clothing I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Stretch knee-length navy pants (a tad tighter than they were last year), a beige tank top and a baby blue and bright green jacket that I plan to shed once I start sweating – secretly hoping the tank top will give me a slight chance for an early spring suntan. Hair is in a ponytail. Since I live in a neighborhood governed by a Homeowners Association, I reluctantly begin my cleanup in the front yard this week. I like my front yard, especially when the lantana begins to bloom, but some of the shrubbery is a bit too formally arranged for my taste. It is the leftover design of a past life that was based on convenience (in more ways than one). At any rate, I haven’t won the lottery yet so I must make use of the current landscaping for a little while longer. I begin to trim the three rows of Japanese Boxwoods and all is going quite well. No neighbors are out to view my stretch pant covered backside or see my wiggly upper arms as I use the electric trimmer. I’m on a roll, so I decide to trim up a few hollies as well. Boy are they prickly!

Mission accomplished, I now need to retrieve some paper landscape clipping bags from the garage. To do this, I must go through the “danger zone” on the west side of my house. I realize I forgot to bring my weapon with me – my purple putter. My neighbor’s dilapidated fence and overly eager pit bull make for an interesting trek from the front yard to the garage and I have grown accustomed to having the golf club with me when working on that side of the house – just in case. The thought goes through my mind that I could run to the garage with the hedge trimmer in hand, but I’m not sure the pit bull would stand still while I find an electrical outlet and proceed to saw off his head. I decide I’ll just go through the house instead, shedding thousands of Japanese Boxwood and Carissa Holly leaves in the living room along the way. I get to the garage and no paper bags are to be found. Searching and searching, I find them buried under some blankets and towels. There are only two. I must ration them . . .

I go back out front to begin the wonderful task of filling up the bags. I toss one on the lawn and start filling the other. All of a sudden, a gust of wind opens up the second bag and, like a hot air balloon; it takes to the sky and off down the street. Need I remind you of my attire? To make matters worse, my allergies have kicked in and I’m overheated, both issues making my face as red as a beet. I look up and down my street and still, amazingly, no neighbors are in sight. I start to walk rapidly toward the paper bag and of course, it takes flight again as soon as I get near it! I debate about actually running after it. Nope. I’m not gonna run. I’ve already taken too many chances that a neighbor or random car may drive by and the fact I have on no supportive garments reinforces this decision.

I begin walking back to my house, admitting defeat and disliking the fact I must go to the store and get more bags. Suddenly, I hear a loud crunching noise behind me. I turn and far down the street it appears my landscaping bag has impaled itself on someone’s car antenna. Hmmm . . . would it be too obvious if I just ignored this? What if the car owner happened to drive by later and discover I am the only one in the neighborhood doing lawn work this morning? Geeze! I reluctantly sprint a 100 yard dash over to the car to retrieve the bag. I carefully peel my Wal-Mart lawn bag from the hood of a Lexus, of all models! Thankfully, there are no witnesses.

Hooray, I now have my second bag. I can get back to the task at hand. As I’m filling the second bag with leaves and such, I feel a sting on my upper arm. More so than the tiny stings from the prickly holly leaves I am gathering. Yikes, something has definitely bit me and the spot is beginning to swell up. Looking in the bag, there is no evidence of the perpetrator. Doesn’t feel too bad, so I press on. After finishing up the yard, I decide I need to make a mental note to keep an eye on the critter bite on my arm. The last time I had a prickly feeling after cleaning under the shrubs, I ended up the next day in the ER with a tennis ball sized black bruise on one of my hips. Lucky me, I get bitten by a brown recluse and it is on the rear. The only thing that surpassed the embarrassment of the bite location was the fact I had to drag my 13 year old stepdaughter with me to the ER and was treated by a doctor not much older. Nothing quite as fun as having to show the largest part of your body to a 22 year old male intern in front of your teenaged stepdaughter and hear muted snickering coming from the both of them! Besides that, the intern actually drew a circle around the bruise on my backside with a permanent marker to “contain” the infection site. Snicker, snicker, snicker . . . .

(Setting aside the humor in this story, if you happen to get bitten by the brown recluse (one of only two spiders in Texas that are considered seriously poisonous, the other being the black widow) it is imperative that you are treated ASAP. Having a small fiddle image on its back but otherwise quite nondescript, do not bother with trying to find and identify the brown recluse once bitten – its bite will tell its tale. The poison works very rapidly, and as I mention in this post, your flesh at the bite site will turn a deep bluish-black within 24 hours. A powerful antibiotic injection and 2 additional antibiotic prescriptions (one noted for leprosy) stopped the infection in its tracks for me, but some folks may require IV antibiotics or hospitalization. This spider’s bite is indeed that serious.)

Well, it’s been 24 hours and the spot on my upper arm from yesterday is still a small, pink bump. So far, so good. No ER visit required, although I plan to take a couple of ibuprofen tonight as my arms and legs feel as though they are about to fall off from all the trimming and bag chasing-sprinting exercises I performed this weekend!

The lesson in this week’s story? The path to a goal isn’t always pretty or easy, and sometimes it may even be a little risky, but you will always come out a winner as you gain the virtues of diligence and humility!

Once bitten, twice shy – and still gardening!


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