Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leaves of Three, Poison and Me

Poison Ivy. Shiny. Pretty. The smooth black grey vines are interrupted by "knuckles" and a change of direction by the vine. The photo below shows a knuckle on the lower right. My first encounter with this lovely was as an eight-year old camping in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, Canada. Camp Henry. Every evening the head camp counselor made rounds with a little hand operated pump filled with DDT. While we were out at the bathrooms in our jammies brushing our teeth, he would be misting our cabins with clouds of DDT so we wouldn't be bothered by anything nasty or harmful like clouds of mosquitoes. Psscht. Psscht. Psscht. I thought I could actually taste it when we got back to the cabins. But I didn't really mind the smell.
In the early years my mother made a point of packing us kids and our supper and driving to the point - Point Pelee, to escape the farm when Dad was spraying in the evening. After he sprayed poison he would come into the house, sit at the kitchen table and drink about a quart of milk. It was suppose to counteract any harmful effect of the poison. Decades later you could still smell DDT in the rubber hoses used to deliver it onto the fields. Back at camp, every morning after devotions we were marched down to the west beach for a swim. I hated it. I did not like large bodies of cold deep water. Lake Erie is a large body of deep water and it is cold at ten o`clock in the morning and we would for some odd reason have to bob out to a sandbar and then bob back. Anyway, I must have brushed against some Poison Ivy on one of these morning excursions because after a day or two of being in camp, my right ankle developed some weeping little spots all in a running row as if a leaf tip had traced across. Itch and itch and itch.
I put up with it and the DDT until when I finally got home at the end of the week and plastered Calamine lotion onto it which dried the stuff right up. Calamine today is thin and watery and I'm afraid to say, not as effective as the thick goopey Calamine of old. DDT has long been banned. And we were not given milk to counteract it's effects at Camp Henry. I often wondered as I nursed my babies. DDT and milk and poison ivy. In my mind it's all connected.


Sue said...

That post made me feel itchy just reading it. We always thought we didn't have any poison ivy or the like in Japan until we bought our cabin up north. There is lots of it, and sumac as well. My kids have learned to recognise it well, and so far have steered clear of it. I hope we can keep it that way with the only remedy being runny calamine lotion!

Richard D said...

I had encountered poison ivy many times when I was a kid and had never had an allergic reaction to it. So I was certain that I could attack poison ivy plants with impunity.

When we bought our first house I was cleaning up the back yard and came across a large amount of poison ivy growing up around a large tree trunk. I grabbed the shoots with my bare hands and ripped them out - what a man!

In a couple days every inch of me was covered by poison ivy blisters. I even had the reaction in my throat, in my eyes, in my nose, and on some areas of my body I'd prefer not to write about here. It was not a pleasant thing.

Although my wife got quite a kick out of it. "Not allergic, eh?" she asked.

Jeanne said...

I stay clear of that stuff
Wicked experience with that when my son was young.......
Love you

Mental P Mama said...

Leaves of three...let them be.

Itching all over just reading this!

Adeena said...

You know, I've never seen poison ivy in real life. Hope that trend continues. ;)

Caution Flag said...

Last year at Cub Scout camp, we were shown what poison ivy looked like, but I don't know if I could actually recognize it on my own. Richard's comment just about has my stomach turning. Horrible. And the many uses of DDT:( Did it ever harm your dad?

Decadent Housewife said...

My dad developed leukemia late in life. Whose to say? His family was rife with it anyway.

I've experienced the same as did Richard, it never really bothered me until I got into a patch and started ripping it out, only I was fully protected. Eyes swollen shut. Skin raw like hamburger. Prednisone is the only thing that will work then. He was in more serious shape than I, as his trachea was affected.

And NEVER, ever burn the stuff.

If the wind is even in my direction, I get it. I made very sure I was upwind of those plants when I took the photos and still felt some itch later in the day.