Catoosa Life Magazine

June - July 2016

Dalton Daily CItizen, Catoosa Life Magazine

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Everyone has a fish story to share, and I am no exception, but mine's not really about the fish. Let me explain. Before we ever moved here from California, my big brother Dean, a whitewater river guide, talked us into a fishing trip on the Tellico River in Tennessee. Dean swore the trout would leap for the hooks as soon as the lines were tossed in. We would arrive first and settle in, and a few days later he'd drive up and see us. In the meantime, we would explore on our own. Arriving at our cabin, we passed other guests who were already sitting on their cabin porches and taking in the view of the river. We unloaded our bags into our bare bones cabin. Soon the sun would set, so Steve and Jack grabbed their poles and tackle box. "They'll be hitting now," my husband said. He and Jack started to head out the cabin's back door, across the back porch and to the river, which lay a hundred yards away. "Wait," I said. "Don't forget the bug repellent." All three of us sprayed our legs, arms and necks. "Now those mosquitoes can't get us," I said. "Want to come with us?" Steve asked. "Sure," I answered, grabbing a novel and my little notebook and pen I always carry along to record details when I travel. We walked across a lawn toward the river. Steve gestured toward the grass. "This might be more comfortable than sitting on those rocks by the river." "I think so," I said. "I'll be right here." I perused the grass, which was coarse-looking and probably would feel itchy if I hadn't been wearing jeans. Then I saw a sandy spot. Lovely! Just like a California beach, but by a river. How lucky was I? I would feel right at home. I sat down and pulled out my novel. The lowering sun bathed me in light as I found my place in the book. Things couldn't get any better. Suddenly I felt hot stinging thorns all over my bottom. I jumped up and yelled for help. "I sat in some nettles!" I screamed. Steve turned and looked at me jumping up and down like a Mexican jumping bean. He ran toward me with Jack trailing him. "Ow! Ow! Get the nettles out!" By now Steve was behind me and quickly assessing the situation. "Pull your pants down!" he ordered. I hesitated. We were out in the wide open within plain view of the cabins, not to mention our son. "Now!" he yelled. I pulled my jeans down around my ankles, and wait- ed for him to pull out the nettles. Instead he started brushing and slap- ping my underside. "What are you doing?" I cried, trying to wiggle out of range. "Stand still!" he ordered. "It's ants!" On the verge of tears, I stood as motionless as one can while being stung by fire ants and brush-slapped at the same time. At that moment, I had a good idea of how Dante felt like in his journey through hell. After the ants were off, I pulled my jeans back up — cautiously, I might add — over the still stinging area. We headed back to the cabin. Steve told me to lie down on the bed so he could treat the bites with witch hazel. He dabbed the bites with cool, wet cotton balls and a light touch. Even so, each dab stabbed like fire. "How many are there?" I asked. "Fifty, at least," he answered. No wonder I was feel- ing numb and dizzy. Could I be having an allergic reaction? For obvious reasons, the next 12 hours I laid on my stomach read- ing and sleeping. By the next morn- ing, I was sore and the bites had turned into 50 red blisters. I forced myself to get up and move around. I didn't want to ruin our trip, so when my husband and son drove upstream along the road that parallels the river, I laid on my side in the back seat. Finding a comfort- able position was challenging. Upon our return home, I visited my allergist and found out that I could have had a serious reaction to the stings. Some have dif- ficulty breathing, throat swelling and a rapid heartbeat. He warned me that the next time I was stung by several fire ants, or by one fire ant sev- eral times (the ants can sting multiple times), I could have a more severe reaction. Some people are actually allergic to the venom, and deaths have been reported. Children and pets are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, our pasture is home to several fire ant colonies. At the water faucet the other day, a sneaky fire ant latched onto my palm. I felt a burning pain and assumed it came from a thorn or nettle until I tried to remove the "thorn" from my skin. That ant clung on. As my husband had done, I slapped it off. This bad boy fell apart and landed in pieces on the ground. I regret I have no fish tale to share from my Tellico Plains trip, but Steve never tires of sharing his version of what happened the day I unwittingly sat in the wrong spot. We like to think of it as our "Fifty Shades of Fire Ants" moment. Janie Dempsey Watts is a regular contributor to Catoosa Life Magazine. Janie Dempsey Watts BOOMERANG A not-so-fishy tail PHOTO © JUDY LAVOIE / FOR TELLICO-PLAINS.COM

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