Tennessee is a wild land. Anyone who has stepped off a manicured path in the “Volunteer State” during summer months knows this. Tangled roots turn to tangled leaves netted together with bramble and vine. Insects traverse this spread as well, present in soil, dangling from greenery and livid in the air. Cats also permeate this brush, pushing through green blankets to nosily eat, chew, or play with that which has been found. The Wild Stewart, though, can only be found meandering during the winter and early spring months, when most of the ‘other’ wilds are asleep.
The cats are hunting with me. We have heard a sound, and are in hot pursuit, scrambling through the underbrush to find it. I am flanked by Polar and Three-Dot, patriarchs of the feral feline colony. Andy, the youngest of the bunch, is yawning on my heels, stopping occasionally to sniff at my random footprints. Leo, our fearless and highly irritable queen stalks the male cats as much as the sound. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of fun and loud stalking, whatever it was disappears and we turn to retrace our steps. I duck and twist around the budding branches and step over leaf-less brambles, finally stepping out into the yard.
The cats remain in the brush, dimming to sets of glowing eyes, and eventually fading into the darkness of underbrush. Or scaling into the higher branches of trees and screeching like baby howler monkeys…
Later that night, as I removed clothes for a shower, I noticed a large blemish on my dairy-air. Flexing into an awkwardly contorted twist, while pinching and shifting a large (and gorgeous) gluteus section to inspect the new blemish further, I observed a rider picked up during the evening’s excursion. I waved a pair of tweezers at the wee tyke.
The wee tyke buried its head further into my gorgeous epidermis.
The next week, I found myself in the doctor’s office. He said, “Wow! What’s going on here?”
I replied, “Well… three days ago, after I shaved, I noticed a small set of lumps on my jaw. I thought it was a line of pimples, but then it grew to a larger spot, and that night, other spots popped up on my face forming a rash.”
He nodded. Encouraged, I continued. “Then, the night before last, I started seeing some swelling on one of my cheekbones, which last night began pushing one of my eyes quite a bit, while the rash simultaneously took over that same area. I went in to work, but I started having trouble concentrating, so left early.”
“This morning I only slept a few hours, and the rash spread to my chest, arms and into my scalp and down my neck.” His eyebrows rose as I continued. “And now the swelling increased across my nose to my other cheekbone and eye.”
He nods a bit more, and then asks, “So… have you been bitten by a tick recently?”
I think back about a week when I clamped some tweezers around a tick’s body and popped it out of my ass. “Yeah… about a week ago.” He began writing out a prescription.
“What do you think it is?”
He paused his scribble long enough to respond, “ I don’t know… we’ll get a blood test, but results will take time. We may not have time, so I’m getting you started with this right away.” He handed me a prescription for doxycycline. “ I believe, though, that it is either Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”
“Is it contagious?”
I began rapidly scratching everywhere I could politely reach.