Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

In the spirit of sportsmanship and respect for a worthy adversary, I doff my camouflage cap to a tiny tick. 

Not just any tiny tick. We’re talking about a warrior. 

Despite its diminutive size, this tick is — or was; more on that in a moment — the meanest, baddest, fiercest, most determined specimen in all of Arachnida. I suspect it smoked unfiltered Camels, rode a Harley and all eight of its legs were heavily tattooed. 

He (she, perhaps?) and I united in Jefferson County during Tennessee’s spring turkey season a few years ago. 

I didn’t make the discovery on my own. Indeed, I wouldn’t have found it in a week’s searching. My wife got the honor. Happened like this: 

It was noonish. I’d just come inside the house after cleaning a 19-pound gobbler and headed for the shower. When I peeled off my camo T-shirt, Mary Ann hollered, “Ugh! How disgusting!” 

She didn’t use to be so crass. But what the heck; we’ve been married nearly 50 years. My bodily real estate is exceedingly larger than it once was. 

But that’s not what bothered her. Instead, it was the tick clinging to my bodily real estate. 

The loathsome thing was attached just below my right shoulder blade. Not only would I never have found it, I never-ever could have removed it. Not even prior to two back surgeries. 

Good wife that she is, Mary Ann gritted her teeth and extracted it from my hide. Ever since, she has been applying antibiotic and anti-itch ointments upon request.

(With one exception. I was at the newspaper office a few days later, and the bite was itching like fire. I stepped into the men’s restroom, peeled my shirt, put a blob of cortisone cream on one fingertip and tried to apply it. Not a pretty sight. The only thing that worked was to take a deep breath, “hug myself” and make a quick stab with the fingertip. Thank heavens nobody walked in. Otherwise, we would’ve had a Page One photo of a hairy, bent-backed, self-hugging walrus.) 

But here’s why I admire the tenacity of that tick: It had fought through not one, not two, but three layers of camo clothing liberally saturated with permethrin spray. 

I am a card-carrying disciple of permethrin-laced products. They’re the finest stuff ever manufactured for killing ticks. Yes, kill. As in DOA. They still get on your clothes, but after taking a couple of steps across the dried layer of permethrin, they curl up like a Frito. Off they drop. I’ve watched this process with my own eyes. 

I’ve been spraying my turkey clothes with permethrin for more than a decade. To the best of my memory, this is the first tick that ever survived the outer layer. Let alone layers beneath. 

I probably should have had this beast mounted and displayed over the fireplace. Instead, I gave it the royal flush. And as swirling waters carried it down the hatch, my sportsmanship wavered momentarily. The last human sound Mr. Tick heard was maniacal laughter and crude words about his ancestry. 

Hope so, anyway.

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at .