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The Hazards of Spring Gardening

by Nick Thomas

You have to wonder what God was thinking when He created poison ivy. Was He having a rough day, or was He just furious with Adam and Eve?

“I’ll teach those darn kids to rummage through my garden in their birthday suites and swipe my fruit,” said God, sprinkling on a liberal dose of Miracle-Gro.

Lucky for Adam the first thing he grabbed to cover his embarrassment was a fig leaf, rather than a bunch of poison ivy.

Whatever the reason for its creation, poison ivy has few redeeming qualities. It is little more than Kudzu with an attitude. (If you’re a Kudzu-weary Southerner, you’ll be familiar with this relentlessly annoying, invasive species; if not, think of it as a Kardashian, with leaves).

And just like reruns of abysmal reality TV shows, poison ivy emerges in the spring to stalk millions of Americans innocently exercising their God-given right for the pursuit of happiness.

Such activities might include a hike through the wilderness, a family camping trip, or tackling a fresh batch of spring weeds in the garden. While most people will take steps to avoid poison ivy in these situations, there are some who just seem to forget the power of the wicked weed’s corrosive juices.

Take our neighbor Larry, for instance (name changed to protect his stupidity).

He’s just awoken from his winter nap and will soon grudgingly venture into the yard to perform his spring rituals, which include buffing the garden gnome and attempting to start his lawnmower (which he hasn’t done successfully since 1987).

Failing to resuscitate his equipment amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Larry will make a futile dash back to the comfort of his lounge room recliner. But he will be quickly intercepted by his wife who, after decades of marriage, is familiar with her husband’s spring modus operandi.

Booted from the house until the job’s complete, Larry will then begin angrily tearing into his forest of weeds by hand  gloveless and shirtless, with flabby, pasty white legs protruding from khaki shorts. Sporting a bare body surface area approaching that of a humpback whale, it won’t be long before the ivy extracts its revenge.

But according to Mrs. Larry, her husband’s mind functions somewhat like RAM storage on a computer  it reboots each spring unencumbered by past memories of gardening hazards. As a result, in his haste to complete his task, each year he inevitably succumbs to exposure from irritating plants and other backyard dangers.

She has actually cautioned her husband many times about contact with poison ivy, but Larry rarely listens preferring to tough out the blistering bouts of discomfort to get the job quickly done.

One year, while he was patching weed wacker wounds on his legs, he barely looked up when I even tried explaining that the plant releases a corrosive oily substance called urushiol (sensuously pronounced oo-roo-shee-ohl) which is rapidly absorbed by the skin.

Another time I informed Larry that he only had 5 minutes after exposure to wash the urushiol from his skin before it permanently bonded to the proteins in his bleached flesh. But he never even glanced at me  too busy plucking thorns from his pelvis, I guess.

Along these lines, nor was he especially attentive when I described the incredible potency of urushiol, and that most people will develop a rash if exposed to a mere 50 micrograms. That’s way smaller than the average tick I’ve witnessed Larry dig out of his eardrum during supper, after a day in the garden.

So now, I’ve abandoned any attempt to offer my neighbor advice, leaving him to wallow in his Orchard of Itching. Some folks just aren’t receptive to gardening guidance.

And that’s where any similarity between Larry and Adam of Eden fame ends.

According to the Book of Genesis, Adam lived for 930 years and, you know, fathered the entire planet.  Larry just dreams about moving to an apartment.

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