It's August in Indiana and the temperature and humidity are both in the nineties. If there is one thing that is good about dog days is that it is optimum for the ripening of fruit. Be it tomatoes, watermelon or peaches those hot humid days and sultry nights bring on the bounty. I have just come inside from picking blackberries along the fence in the back yard. Oh the domestic thornless blackberry. Now that is a development that I equate on the level of importance alongside the availability of permanent press for moving man or rather woman out of the dark ages. While leisurely harvesting fruits the size of Shaq O'Neal's big toe I began to think about the days before this fruit had been cloned, mutated and improved to serve modern tastes and yard culture.
Before the domesticated blackberry the quest for the wild fruit put fear and trepidation in all but the seasoned outdoorsman. As the heat began to climb kids all across the heartland began to ready their pails for collection of the elusive treasure. To return from the hunt laden with bucket overflowing meant you would be mother's favorite for a day or so. If you happen to gather enough for jam you could milk the favor well into Thanksgiving. Even the wounds of battle from the thorns were worn like badges of courage. I always made sure not to think too much about the possibility of snakes in the underbrush as I quickly picked everything I could reach. All the time I wondered if any young person had ever died of heat stroke picking berries. I thought if this were to happen I would be given a foragers honor like none had ever seen.
Always thankful to have the bucket filled I would climb on the bicycle and feel a breeze as I rode back to the house. That evening at supper was a hail to the conquering hero. Mom made sure to get the blackberry cobbler done just on time so that it was still warm but not too hot because it would curdle the cream that Dad loved to pour over it. Yes my position in the will was cast in stone. Even if my permanent teeth did come in crooked or I fail at my first attempt at my driving test I was in like Flynn. And it cost me very little to attain this stature just a bit of sweat and a bit of sunburn on my nose.
As I lay that night in bed full of myself for the coup that I have scored I feel a bit of an itch pajamas south. I scratch as dignified as one can in that region. My I am sleepy. Itch...scratch. Did I put my bicycle on the porch or leave it...itch...scratch...in the yard...itch...scratch. I know I don't have the measles because...itch...scratch...I had them....itch...itch...scratch...scratch...two years...itch...itch...scratch...scratch....scratch...ago. Itch...Itch...I am not going to....scratch....scratch......... As the night goes on forever the daylight brings the evidence of the sleepless frenzy... The scourge of summer....CHIGGERS!
The pest that is politically correct. That's right...he cares not if you are rich or poor. Donald Trump will have welts just like a pauper. He cares not about your color. White, black, brown or yellow you scratch the same. He cares not of your religious affiliation. He will pester you in the confessional just like he will in temple. He can humble the most confident statesman or king just by making you itch where you shouldn't scratch. And humble you he will for he really gets fired up when you put your glad rags on. You know if you go out on a date or to church. These are the times in church you hope for that LONG prayer so you can get a quick scratch in while everyone's eyes are closed. Heaven forbid he digs in during a hot August night tent meeting.
As the tent gets warmer Mr. Chigger begins to giggle because he is going to test your resistance to temptation. Not the temptation the preacher is howlin' about but the temptation to claw like a hound dog. As you stand firm the tears begin to roll down your face. You begin to breathe deep to try and ride out the itchy wave. As you begin to squirm and fidget you are thankful that the crowd rises for a rousing hymn. You think by letting the blood rush to your feet you will decrease your sensation of annoyance around your waistband. But No, he is well into the throes of torture. You shuffle your feet to regain your composure and the people next to you are watching. They begin to step out into the aisle to provide you with the clear path to answer your alter call. You step out to take your misery outside but in reaching the aisle the throng gives an "Hallelujah" and lead you down front as the choir sings. The preacher asks if you have been tortured by your indiscretions. You answer yes because you know that the weakness for blackberry cobbler put you in this degrading state of angst. The preacher asks if you are ready to go down to the creek and be washed clean of your distress. All you can think of is that cold water running out from the mouth of the cave on the hill. You think you can drown Mr. Chigger and send him down to the gulf of Mexico. You answer yes to the preacher and tell him the sooner the better. The processional is glorious. The minister leading at the front as you follow jerking and jiving to try and get your underwear where they won't make Mr. Chigger mad. The throng of well wishers follow in song bolstering your divine commitment.
You reach the water's edge and you jump in before the preacher can even say a prayer. As he sends you under you feel the cool wave of redemption. When you come up the minister proclaims to the congregation that you are now free of your demons. I know he thinks that demon to be Satan, but I would like to interject this possible item for consideration. In the garden of Eden it is taught that Satan took on the form of a serpent...I have to say this. If Adam and Eve were picking fruit in the garden....the sure demon of mankind had to be the chigger!
From down on the farm Smiles...itch...itch...scratch...scratch...Amen