Boomers recall lots of childhood memories. Some good and some not so good. One of those not-so-good memories for me was when I got “chiggered.”
I was spending a week at Grandma Brewer’s, in Clemmons, NC, an annual event soon after school let out. My father, who was killed in World War II, had 8 living brothers and sisters and I was often passed around from Brewer to Brewer as I visited.
On one of those trips I was staying with Uncle Roy and Aunt Celia. Uncle Roy had a tobacco farm and also raised dairy cows. He frequently let me help milk the cows, but I never could get the hang of it. He could fill a bucket with warm milk in a matter of minutes while it took me that long to get a couple tablespoons.
One morning, after milking chores, Aunt Celia asked if I would like to go help her pick some blackberries. Her blackberry pies were legendary in Forsythe County and I eagerly accepted her invitation. My mouth fairly watered in anticipation as we filled two buckets with the succulent berries. She made the pies that night and we ate them with homemade vanilla ice cream.
That was a good memory.
The not so good memory came the next day when I noticed some insect bites in and around my private parts. They itched mightily and I scratched them until they were raw. They turned out to be chigger bites. Chiggers, it seems, are as fond of blackberry bushes as are the humans looking for pie ingredients and I was infested with the bites of those nasty insects. Without parents around, or anyone to confide in, I was too embarrassed to ask for help, so I suffered through a sleepless night trying not to scratch. The next day, I returned to Grandma’s house and was determined to get some relief from her medicine cabinet. The only thing I could find that looked promising was rubbing alcohol. Maybe that would help. The pain I experienced when the alcohol met up with the raw flesh was easily the worst I have experienced to this very day.
Holy Moly did that ever burn. It was all I could do to not scream out at the top of my lungs. In a few days, when I returned home, my mom treated the bites with Calamine Lotion, which eased my suffering – slightly.
I have never picked blackberries since that eventful summer. I don’t even like to walk near them on display at the grocery store.
My advice to would-be blackberry pickers is to apply lots of insect repellent to your person before you go. And this too. Never, ever, ever put alcohol directly on a raw chigger bite.