Tag Archive: darkness


The creek was long. You all know that. The creek was wide. The day was passing and the water was gross and we were working hard to get the survey done without messing it up and praying we would never have to come back and redo it. Funny thing about daylight and this chapter – both have an ending.

Some of you might be disappointed that the ending is coming. Some of you might be sitting on the edge of your seats. Well, what began to happen changed, forever, the way I would look at what we did. We had completed the survey and were packing it in when I noticed that the sun was beginning to go down behind the cypress trees in the distance.

The silhouette of the black tree line against the orange ball that was the sun was both beautiful and awful. Immediately I said to John that we should hurry. John, once again sharing words of wisdom and horror, said that we were lucky we didn’t have a flashlight – that alligators were nocturnal feeders and that the eyes lined up on the banks would scare us to death. John is such a comfort.

John – Our Mentor

I wondered to myself if he meant to say that out  loud. John knows more about working in swamps than we do but he also has a story about getting bitten by a moccasin that we don’t. You see, we were chest deep in nasty water pushing the canoes filled with equipment upstream as the sunlight faded. My initial reaction was to call my husband.

Usually Scott doesn’t worry too much about me – or at least that’s how it seems. I was more worried that I would not make it whole back to the canoe launch. I was really scared. I called and told him what was going on and that if he didn’t hear from me in an hour – I just wanted to let him know that I loved him and to kiss the kids for me. I wondered, as I hung up, if he had taken me seriously. I wondered why I decided I could do this. I also wondered how much life insurance I had.

The funny thing about darkness is that it is just that. It’s dark. We all know from our childhood that very terrible things lurk in the darkness. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you still believe in some things. I believed that this was a very serious situation and that I was sincerely afraid. I tried to sound flippant and keep Kristen laughing. I knew she was walking in holes over her head. I knew that every other footstep brought an unknown bottom that might hold a fallen and rotting tree and its branches.

I knew that the darkness was coming and we weren’t going to make it back before it fell. The fear that gripped me was overwhelming. I found myself gripping the side of the canoe even harder. I began trying not to touch the bottom. I started to make funny comments in a nervous voice. I started to panic.

It’s pretty obvious that we made it back. It’s probably not as obvious what followed us back to the launch. I can’t say when I noticed it. I only know that it is here, with me now as I write this chapter. It has been with me ever since that first survey. It seeps into the room when I am otherwise occupied. It takes me over some days.

It’s what followed us back to the launch that day that I miss the most sometimes sitting here at the kitchen counter writing. It’s that notion that anything could have happened and didn’t. It’s the feeling that you escaped, and cheated death. It’s knowing that there are two people who you don’t have to ask to watch out for you. It’s a part of me that is slowly dying. A part of my soul that is starving. A corner of my heart that is crumbling slowly and rotting.

Here, on this Halloween night, it’s what scares me more than the ghouls and monsters. It scares me even more that the fear of the things I couldn’t see as that sun went down behind the tree line. I can’t face my fear of it.

That I might lose the Team! Forever! Does that ever scare you?

Just when you think you have everything under control, something goes terribly awry! At least it seems that way when you have the kind of field day we had day before yesterday. We were set to perform three macroinvertebrate samplings in an unknown small system and it sounded like the perfect day for us bug nerds! NOT!!!

It looks like a nice place. I won’t go into the details about what the little stream looks like for fear of breaching the wonderful relationship we have with our client….suffice it to say that…it isn’t pristine. We discussed ahead of time the fact that we would probably find icky bugs too….it is in a transitional state of development. Our job is to come in, evaluate in great detail the state of the system, make recommendations, oversee enhancement, monitor recovery, and later – enjoy that fact that we helped make it better.

We don’t expect drinkable water, park-like conditions, or fluffy conditions. We expect a certain amount of ickiness! We began our collection. Once I began fishing around,WITH MY BARE HANDS. So, without further adieu….

This Photo is for Shock Value Only

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU SEE LEECHES

  1. Make squealy noises – doesn’t affect the leeches behavior but it certainly gets out some of the squigglies!
  2. Perform a mental check on tucked in-ness…did you tuck in pant legs, shirt, etc…?
  3. Revisit why you do this for a living.
  4. Pretend that you will know when a leech latches onto you  and starts sucking your blood (which will not happen – they first spit out an anesthesia so you will not know until TOO LATE)
  5. Pretend that it won’t happen to you….ha ha ha ha ha….ha ha ha
  6. Immediately think of all the horror movies you have seen about leeches!
  7. Notice how small and hard to see they really are! Have you just never noticed them before?
  8. Make squealy noises again – hey man – they are creepy.
  9. Remember that you wore short socks and short boots…..ha ha ha – you should have seen the look on Jessica’s face!!! PRICELESS
  10. Make sure you do a thorough leech check….those suckers (ha ha) can be so small!

    Lurking Leeches

Finally, remember to check twice,  also, check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leech for really gross and entertaining information about leeches. Like – they have two suckers, some won’t feed on blood, if taken off incorrectly, they can vomit their grossness into your bloodstream…and more fun facts!

You all know by now that ticks are nasty little buggers. They hang stealthily (it is so a word) on the tips of leaves waiting for warm-blooded hard workers like me and you to wander close enough that they can sink their nasty little claws onto you. Once aboard, they creep their nasty little way into the darkest reaches of your warm sweaty body where they  nibble until they find a juicy bit – then they sink their vicious head into your skin and begin to feast on your blood (yeah – I could lie but that’s what they do).

Some of you are concerned that I am a tick hater – that I am biased against these little fellas and am only helping give them a bad rap and making it hard for those who are FOR ticks. I don’t care! Ticks care nothing for their reputation or my opinion or they would dine politely on something other than my ass!

I thought it would be helpful to list a few good ways I have learned to remove them:

  1. While holding a beer in one hand, heat a needle with a lighter and pierce the tick while spewing some comforting  bull crap to the victim. This piercing will cause the tick to remove head and later die. The victim will be traumatized forever unless said victim is our puppy Bella who could care less if you rub her belly.

    Nasty Little Buggers.....

  2. If you cannot find a needle, skip the piercing and go straight for burning it. Hold the lighter close enough to heat and scare it out – be careful not to singe or totally burn up the victim – if the burning up of victim occurs – refer to first aid manual.
  3. Carefully grab the tick firmly and gently twist while pulling softly. This will cause it to release its jaws and you can pull it out safely – unless of course the victim is freaking out because they don’t think that is a very good way and are wiggling.
  4. Various viscous fluids can be used to smother, choke or otherwise make the damn thing let loose (oil, vaseline, rubbing alcohol, fingernail polish) This all sounds great but takes a long time – you might as well-knit the darned thing a sweater!
  5. Tick Remover tool….sounds good right – ha ha – you try that one!

Whatever method you use, the victim will be grossed out, uncomfortable, and probably not happy. Be prepared with candy if under 21 or beer if over….if the victim has four legs just feed or pet it. Ticks suck….REALLY!

(((This is for entertainment purposes only – please don’t inundate me with proper tick removal methods. That is no fun)))

(((And “YES” that is a close up of a tick – don’t you hate them worse now....)))

Madtoms

Beneath the leaf mats they sit in darkness

Waiting waiting for the moon to rise and the winds to die

Slick sticky thickness wriggling wetly

Up through the muck up up they gurgle

Wide mouths wear wicked whiskers

Sucking sounds as they slurp up somethings

In the night

The catfish bite

Madtoms

Most of you think that this is a page for women by women. Sure, it can be. I am definitely a woman! But we work and play with and around men also. In fact, we have a following that is strictly male and they are The Honorary Members of Chicks with Ticks. They even have their own logo! That’s right – they rock. We love our men!

Anyway – Tyler, my field partner for the day, and I were headed down south to Grasshopper Slough. Nothing special about that, except that we LOVE Grasshopper Slough. It’s on private land that is maintained about as well as any conservationist could ask, even though it’s a working cattle ranch – we love the way they alternate fields, manage forestry, and generally have a love of the land. It makes our job easier.

We got to the stream and it was about 2 feet deep. Now, I had been coming to this spot on this stream for years….mostly alone. I had Tyler today which is sweet because he is like my ninja man….studies budhism, meditates, is smiley, and an amazing friend. We got to the stream bank and I put my junk down where I always do. Then…something wasn’t right.

I told Ty (yeah – sometimes I call him Ty) that something wasn’t right. I scanned the area and make sure nothing is gonna eat us and then go about my business. I felt like I was being watched. I’ll tell ya it really creeped me out because there are some very large gators upstream from our site. Anyway, I laughed it off and then asked Ty if he minded being my ninja guardian and walk through the water to the gauge with me – which is sooooo not me because the water is only 2 feet deep and I go there all the time alone. Silly girl.

So, he remarked that was weird but that he would, of course – after all he is my ninja guardian. And he did. We came back with the logger (measures the level of the stream) and I sat on that bank and just looked at that 18 foot wide, 2 foot deep brown tannic stream and thought that I was crazy for feeling the way I did. I was being unreasonable. I told Ty I was being girlie! So, we did our thing and left.

We returned a week later to the same spot to do the same thing. I felt the same way. I might have even felt a bit worse. Something was there. I told Ty that I thought it might be a turtle or otter and I was just sensitive. We started work and I continually scanned the stream (spotted) as Ty went into the stream to measure flow. I still felt uncomfortable. I can’t explain it. I asked Ty to be careful.

I turned to scan the stream one more time. I saw something in the deeper pool just upstream of our site. I couldn’t say what it was so I asked Ty to stay out of the water until I could identify it. This is one of my safety protocols! I hoped to see a large fish or piece of wood floating. I turned away to set up planning to figure it out once I was finished.

Tyler - Honorary Member of Chicks with Ticks & Ninja

I started opening my laptop and setting up the equipment as usual. For some reason, I looked back over my shoulder at the stream just where I had seen the “something”. Headed straight for Ty was a huge gator. It was moving fast and even making a wake. I bent back and grabbed a stick as I yelled to Ty, “Gator, big gator, out of the water!” I splashed the stick around and the gator turned toward me and slowed.

Oh my. At this point, I have to tell you how bad it was. Ty was supposed to be out of the water, right, because I asked him to. Instead, he was bent over pulling grass so he could use the doplar equipment we use to measure flow. This meant that his head was at the surface of the water and the gator was about 5 feet away when I spotted her. You can imagine how we both felt. Now Ty is on the other side of that stream. We had to get him back on the side with me and the truck with a gator in the middle! I tell you what. That gator was every bit of 9 feet and the stream only 18 feet across.

That gator followed us as we walked up and down the stream trying to find a good place for Ty to cross. It snapped at anything we threw. We decided that the marsh upstream was our best bet as I could swamp the truck halfway and at least he wouldn’t be stranded, just the truck would be. He hiked down and I drove. I didn’t see Ty. He didn’t come. I started to panic. I had driven the truck deep into the mucky maidencane marsh. I climbed out the window and stood on top of the truck. Where the hell was he?

I didn’t see him for what seemed like forever. All of the sudden, I see a figure in white (Ty) crouched down sneaking through the grass. Well, let me tell you, he looked like gator bait all bent over and easy to eat. I yelled for him to make himself big and run to the truck. I realized how close we had come when he collapsed in the bed of the truck next to me.

We laid there for a long time cursing and reliving the moment he almost got eaten. We still relive it. It was the most intense experience I had ever had and it changed me for a long time – changed us for a long time. Hell, it even changed the way we worked for a long time. I was afraid. Afraid that every pool had a gator in it ready to eat my field partners. I had never been afraid. Wary, cautious, yes, but not afraid.

Actual photo of gator that almost ate Ty!

That feeling passed, at least mostly. I still think about it when I stand next to that creek. The gator? Oh, a trapper came back a few weeks later and shot it after he roped it. He said the gator didn’t act right. He though it was crazy. I don’t know much about that – I only know that its not there anymore.

I only know that I haven’t felt that same feeling I felt the week before the gator almost ate Tyler! I do get that feeling every now and then at other sites. Sometimes it’s everything I can do to make myself go where I need to go. Sometimes, I don’t go at all.

You hear about sixth sense. You talk about intuition. I trust mine. Sometimes I look into that murky water and think I am going somewhere I know I shouldn’t go. I am entering a world that doesn’t belong to me. I am intruding. Most days I know I will be forgiven. I know I can pass without paying a toll. Some days I wonder when my time will run out.

That’s right. I am going to share the secret, let the cat out of the bag, spill the beans, you know, let you in the club! In order to be a full-fledged member of the Chicks with Ticks you must have a sense of adventure. This sense usually accompanies a need to be outdoors and a basic disregard for what is proper.

I have begun a sort of Guidebook. A manual, if you will, that will assist you in becoming a Chick with Ticks (if you are not already) and guide you along on your journey to become a true member (or honorary member for you boys and men) of Chicks with Ticks!

Some general rules for Chicks with Ticks:

  • Backpack/purse – same thing
  • Snake boots go with everything (including shorts)
  • You can wear the same pair of socks two days (or weeks) in a row as they will only get dirty again
  • What happens in the forest, stays in the forest (this rule is to protect you – trust me some embarrassing stuff happens out there)
  • Call “Log”, “Hole”, “Don’t Move”, “Duck”, etc. to your partner if you are in front
  • Pick a tree to climb in the unlikely (yeah right) event that something comes at you
  • Never stick you hand in a hole – that’s why they call them sticks – DUH
  • You got my back – I got yours
  • Everything is Perfect!!

This is just for starters. An introduction, if you will. For all situations, there is an answer – we will address them in Sections.

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Chick with Ticks!

YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU STARTED!!!

Plunder Branch Hwy 62

It's Perfect!

The creek was long. You all know that. The creek was wide. The day was passing and the water was gross and we were working hard to get the survey done without messing it up and praying we would never have to come back and redo it. Funny thing about daylight and this chapter – both have an ending.

Some of you might be disappointed that the ending is coming. Some of you might be sitting on the edge of your seats. Well, what began to happen changed, forever, the way I would look at what we did. We had completed the survey and were packing it in when I noticed that the sun was beginning to go down behind the cypress trees in the distance.

The silhouette of the black tree line against the orange ball that was the sun was both beautiful and awful. Immediately I said to John that we should hurry. John, once again sharing words of wisdom and horror, said that we were lucky we didn’t have a flashlight – that alligators were nocturnal feeders and that the eyes lined up on the banks would scare us to death. John is such a comfort.

John - Our Mentor

I wondered to myself if he meant to say that out  loud. John knows more about working in swamps than we do but he also has a story about getting bitten by a moccasin that we don’t. You see, we were chest deep in nasty water pushing the canoes filled with equipment upstream as the sunlight faded. My initial reaction was to call my husband.

Usually Scott doesn’t worry too much about me – or at least that’s how it seems. I was more worried that I would not make it whole back to the canoe launch. I was really scared. I called and told him what was going on and that if he didn’t hear from me in an hour – I just wanted to let him know that I loved him and to kiss the kids for me. I wondered, as I hung up, if he had taken me seriously. I wondered why I decided I could do this. I also wondered how much life insurance I had.

The funny thing about darkness is that it is just that. It’s dark. We all know from our childhood that very terrible things lurk in the darkness. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you still believe in some things. I believed that this was a very serious situation and that I was sincerely afraid. I tried to sound flippant and keep Kristen laughing. I knew she was walking in holes over her head. I knew that every other footstep brought an unknown bottom that might hold a fallen and rotting tree and its branches.

I knew that the darkness was coming and we weren’t going to make it back before it fell. The fear that gripped me was overwhelming. I found myself gripping the side of the canoe even harder. I began trying not to touch the bottom. I started to make funny comments in a nervous voice. I started to panic.

It’s pretty obvious that we made it back. It’s probably not as obvious what followed us back to the launch. I can’t say when I noticed it. I only know that it is here, with me now as I write this chapter. It has been with me ever since that first survey. It seeps into the room when I am otherwise occupied. It takes me over some days.

It’s what followed us back to the launch that day that I miss the most sometimes sitting here at the kitchen counter writing. It’s that notion that anything could have happened and didn’t. It’s the feeling that you escaped, and cheated death. It’s knowing that there are two people who you don’t have to ask to watch out for you. It’s a part of me that is slowly dying. A part of my soul that is starving. A corner of my heart that is crumbling slowly and rotting.

Here, on this Halloween night, it’s what scares me more than the ghouls and monsters. It scares me even more that the fear of the things I couldn’t see as that sun went down behind the tree line. I can’t face my fear of it.

That I might lose the Team! Forever! Does that ever scare you?

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