I wrote this when I lived in Socorro, New Mexico, but I’d guess it’s as timely and germane today as it was then.
It’s sad, but they have to migrate: there’s no good water in the Rio Grande anymore. It’s all sewage passed downstream from Albuquerque and other towns.
This was almost home to them. Their ancestors arrived with the first cattle drives from Texas in the 1880s. But finally they’ve had enough. Lemming-like they’ve decided as one to return home, Lone Star Ticks to the Lone Star State, same as those invading Confederate Texas humans had to finally stagger and stumble home when things took a turn for the worst..
This far south they’ve just begun to gather; just started to come out from under the grassleaves, the treebark, stragglers still coming out of the brush. The main migration gathering is further north in the Isleta lands, Lost Lunas, and up by Belen.
There they’ve mostly already grouped. They’ve dropped off the rats, cows, deer, dogs and coyotes. The earliest ones are drifting south ahead of the others. They’re the lucky ones. Those got far enough south yesterday to find a stray muskrats along the river and get a little something to eat. The stragglers will find it hard going.
It’s sad, but hopeful: tiny seed ticks huddling close to their mamas at night, the great herd constricting in the cold dark, mama and daddy ticks worrying about the great crossing of the Jornada del Muerto, about the dearth of animals on the Jornada. But also knowing in their tiny network of neurons passing for a brain, that once further south, things will still not be easy……the migration there, the gathering will have already emptied the countryside of hosts, bloodmeals will be a rarity.
When those Isleta and Lost Lunas ticks get as far south as Socorro, the southern ticks will have eaten away everything available. Fishermen will know something’s up by then; they’ll be staying away from the river bottom country sensing some new thing, some change in the atmosphere near the river, hectored by the early gathering; the dogs, the feral cats, the rodents, all driven away from the river bottom by the strange new presence of so many tiny pests.
The animals left will be sucked dry. Probably when the latecomers reach Socorro they’ll have to take their chances in town. Maybe they’ll find pets or townspeople for a last meal before they try to cross the dreaded Jornada del Muerto.
Some of them will drift up onto the freeway to find broken-down motorists with flat tires or dead batteries. Truck drivers stopped to urinate by the road or unsuspecting drunks sleeping with the window opened a crack to release the foul tobacco smoke from inside the car will save a few. Maybe an unlucky hitchhiker sleeping under a bridge or one of the frequent escapees from the prison or jail; some hapless hobo along the railroad, waiting for the next train.
If the motorist doesn’t get bitten by too many at once there’ll be a chance for a jump south by vehicle across the Jornada and avoiding the hard crossing….a quick ride to Cruces, or Truth or Consequences, or El Paso for a small group if they don’t get greedy and just take it easy on the driver. But so many of these younger ticks want everything now.
It might be hard going for them when they get down toward Cruces. That’s where they’ll first meet the newly arrived fire ants. Also, those deep southern ticks will resent their presence, nudging their little fat grey bodies aside as they scramble in a fold of flesh for a foothold and a meal. And ahead, Texas.
The ancestral homeland.
Yes, it’s sad, of the hundreds of millions of ticks starting home; tens of millions won’t make it. There’ll be stained smudges on the freeway where they try to cross, but many run over by recklessly speeding cars.
Thousands clogging the river with their tiny carcasses where the water rose unexpectedly during a crossing, catching many unaware, the long march, the trail of tears, the trek home; so many dead, so many lost, the seed ticks, the mama ticks, the large swollen soft ticks shriveled and wrinkled with hardship….so many friends left back there along the trail, so many loved ones, lost, so many seed ticks lying there in the massive killing fields along the route.
But they’ll do as they can, do as they are able, do as they must, heading south on that lonely migration that long dusty trek, always knowing they won’t be welcomed by their distant kinsmen.
The plethora of ticks in Texas, those hungry, selfish younger generation ticks will push and shove on the hosts, fighting for the best positions in and behind the ears, high on the necks where teeth can’t reach, tiny skirmishes and struggles for position everywhere; on cows, on dogs, on rodents, in the thick hair of women and unreconstructed hippy men in cowboy hats..
As always, those selfish Texas ticks will not agree to share their bounty. They’ll fight despite the sad happiness of the return of their distant relations.
Damn those things are ugly.
El Guapo: Eye of the beholder. She’s a pretty thang to a papa tick. Jules
I know every creature has a purpose- but that’s one I would shed no tears for should it become extinct.
rumpydog: Humanocentrism can be a curse. Gracias, Jules
That tick looks like my mother’s frangipan pie! And I’m sure it would taste better- she was a lousy cook!
apocalypseicons: I feel your pain Mine too. Gracias, Jules
If there is a good argument for there being no God, it is the existence of these vile creatures. Good story.
Frank Wallace: Thanks. Maybe it’s an equally good argument God ain’t what it’s usually believed to be. Gracias, Jules
thanks for the link to the blues brothers!
it’s not easy to play against the audience …
frizztex: Life can be a tough gig if a person can’t enjoy playing against the audience. Gracias, Jules
All that poetry and I still have no compassion as I check my supplies of sulfur and diatomaceous earth! Let the chickens out! Where’s those guineas…
Texasjune: Sometimes we just have to steel ourselves. Chickens and guineas are out pecking today. Gracias, Jules
This post makes me sad, not for the ticks – bless their little gravid hearts – but for the Rio Grande. I remember 18 years ago living in Carson NM and going to the gorge to experience vertigo overlooking that dwindling body of water. In one year we saw it go from a swirling, gushing, virile snake to a husk of a serpent at the advent of a 10-plus year drought cycle.
So sorry to hear this continues.
Bela: Thanks for coming by. The Great River’s probably in worse shape today than it was when the tick piece was written. Gracias, Jules
Huh. I thought Perry was a Texas native . . .
John: Might be. I don’t know the guy. Thanks for the visit. Jules
Gotta hand it to ya, don’t think anyone but you could get that much depth out of this topic. Had enough tick Occupying on myself for a lifetime when I was a kid. Don’t like them damn ticks. We used to lay the dogs down on their sides and pull back the hair when we’d find one, and the chickens would pick em right off. Had one chicken that loved doing that so much we named her Tick. I aint kiddin Jules, that’s a true story.
Hi HoboJoe: Thanks for coming by. That’s a big plus for chickens. I’m surprised the dogs put up with it though. Hope things are going well in your life. Gracias, Jules
My hat’s off to you for making an opus out of some ticks taking a long walk. Thanks for the yarn 🙂
benrovik: Thanks. I’m obliged you came by for a read. Gracias, Jules
Crossed the Rio Grande a few weeks back, didn’t take the time to think of the ticks! Great post!
Hi Deano: It’s a sad testimony to our humanocentricity nobody thinks of the ticks unless they’re being sucked dry by them. Thanks for the visit the read and the kind words. Jules
Of all the creatures, this is one which turns my stomach like no other….yet reading this charming story, I leave with a different perspective 🙂
eremophila: Biodiversity can be a challenge to human open-mindedness I reckons. Thanks for the visit and read. Jules
Sufern so much sufern!
We have ticks in California, too, but I don’t think they have the gumption of your Texas ticks. They can surf, though. 😉
vmjsc: Likely as not California ticks are more tuned in to things and forward thinking. Most Californians never try going back to where it was their ancestors came from. I appreciate your visit. Jules
Not very fond of creepy crawleys myself. Makes me itch just thinking about the danged things.
raburcke: I’m glad you visited. They’re definitely an acquired taste. Gracias, Jules
I really like this post: very thoughtful!
Thanks Pit. I’m grateful for your visit. Jules
Do your ticks carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? I’m in the Ohio Valley and here they do. At the age of 5 my sister contracted it even though she never went outside….I too have no sympathy for the creatures but applaud your having an interesting post despite the subject matter.
KL Richardson: I’m obliged for your visit and reads. Yeah, I believe Texas ticks carry the Rocky Mountain Spottedest Fever of ticks anywhere except in the Rocky Mountains. Gracias, Jules
Reblogged this on So Far From Heaven and commented:
Hi readers. I’m reblogging this because the original writing of it was a direct consequence of the events described in the previous post. J
Even the ticks are here for a reason but I wonder they haven’t gotten side-tracked from the original plan. Yeh.
Maybe the ticks are still on track and it was us got sidetracked, Tess. J
Good comeback. You might well have a point.