Take a Hike. Save a Tick.

by Jase Graves
[cartoon id="197324"] With blistering summer weather in full force and shiny new COVID-19 variants emerging like another season of “The Bachelor,” many Americans have taken to the great outdoors–despite recently reported attacks by grizzly bears, alligators, and President Joe Biden’s surviving German shepherd, Major (R.I.P. Champ). And speaking of cantankerous canines, I normally limit my own experiences with nature to mowing my yard and taking evening walks with my wife around our subdivision–where we sometimes encounter local mongrels whom the neighbors have let out to marinate the mailboxes. These loving pets often use their potty breaks as a chance to threaten us with a good old-fashioned scalp mauling. In these perilous moments, I always do the gallant husband-type thing and position myself between the lunging lawn sausages and my wife – while praying that if I do soil myself, it won’t be caught on video and uploaded to TikTok. It may surprise you, then, that when I accompanied my wife on a recent business trip to the beautiful Tanglewood Resort and Conference Center at Lake Texoma on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, I willingly risked life, limb, and my clean, fresh scent to go hiking. Yes, hiking – also known as walking in places you shouldn’t. While my wife was in meetings, I could have participated in striped bass fishing, pontoon boating, or having my back hairs moisturized at Tanglewood’s Tranquility Spa and Salon. But since most of these activities required that I get out of bed before noon, I decided, instead, to sleep late, put on my “Welcome Ticks!” sandwich board and head out to the hiking trails. When I asked the front desk clerk for directions to the trails, she replied, “Well, we’re not really recommending the hiking trails at the moment due to the snakes and the hogs, but you can do what you want.” The Snakes and the Hogs? Weren’t those the gangs in “West Side Story”? Anyway, I wasn’t about to let a bunch of woodland hoodlums and their homies deter me from possibly getting a heat rash and dislocating my pinky toes. Once I found the trailhead and noticed that it introduced a steep, gravelly descent through the woods and toward the lake, I immediately began to question my choice in footwear – a pair of Nike Air Assault sneakers purchased five years ago in the dad-shoe section at Academy Sports + Outdoors. Luckily, I only did the slipping-splits a couple of times, which made my groin feel like I had just lost to Simone Biles on the balance beam. I was actually hoping I might spot some forest wildlife, but I guess the snakes and hogs were napping after preying on the hikers who got up before lunch. I did, however, notice a few feral beer cans and one rare North American toilet seat that some nature-lover had mercifully released into the wild. When I finally stumbled to the trail’s end that revealed a vast marina on the lake, the air temperature was roughly the same as the Walmart parking lot in mid-August, which called for extreme life-saving measures. In other words, I took off my shirt–in public–a shocking act of exhibitionism that scandalized a nearby flock of Canadian geese who promptly regretted their migration decisions. After I had hiked back up the trail and made it to the safety of air-conditioning, I felt proud and invigorated. In fact, I somehow convinced my wife to go hiking with me the next day. (We’re still feeling hopeful about the marriage counseling.) Seriously, though, hiking did give me a chance to get in touch with the natural world for a change. Most of all, it made me thankful that the good Lord designed His beautiful creation in all its variety for us to enjoy–except for, maybe, the snakes and the hogs. - Copyright 2021 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected]