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  • A few years ago we spent a December holiday in a small cottage in a vineyard down in the Western Cape about an hour north of Cape Town. The cottage backed on to the mountains with the dark green of the vines spread out in front. In the evenings we could drink on the front stoep and play cards and watch the sun set over the jagged peaks on the other side of the broad sandy valley.

    In the mornings I walked in the mountains. Up past the mountain pool at the bottom of the small waterfall and into the koppies and kloofs beyond. The little Klipspringers clattered away, their hooves loud on the bare rock and the baboons stalked me from the ridges and cliffs above.

    While I walked I picked the tops of grasses and plants. I checked to see if they smelled. Looked at their leaves, pulled out seeds, just gave in to my curiosity as I rambled through the bush.

    There were ticks and I do hate a tick. I caught several of them crawling up my socks when I took off my boots on the porch steps when I was done. Usually I walk in sandals but this trip I was breaking in a new pair of boots so the little buggers got snagged in my socks and I had to pull them loose and squish them.

    Since my shorts are just sport shorts and loose I needed to be careful no ticks breached security and found refuge in higher ground. My brother had a tick latch onto his scrotum when he was about 5 and I have lived in fear of that ever since. His yells stuck in my mind and the horror of one of them, digging in, down there.

    On this particular walk I stopped to do a tick check around my ankles and then checked my legs and then as I was alone and the walk had been plenty long for a tick to make significant progress I checked, well, you know, there. I checked thoroughly, and had a bit of a scratch while I was at it. I was alone and baboons were not going to have their sensibilities violated. So I had a good scratch.

    Suddenly, ferociously, and completely unexpectedly my balls were on fire. I mean it was like working with hot chilies and forgetting and touching your nose or your eyes only this was not my eyes and nose and it was about 100 times worse. I was a good hour at a trot away from the mountain pool and any chance of relief and I had some serious visions of mortal and permanent damage. But most of all I was on fire.

    I headed for the pool as fast as I could move over the loose rock and ledges.

    Half way through the mad scramble the fire damped down. I was in such a wild tear it took a while for the change to penetrate my panic.

    I did do a quick check, just to be sure. Sat on a rock breathing and regaining my shattered sense of peace and oneness with the world. Finally, I decided it was safe to go on and not back and set off again.

    This time I kept my hands above the belt.
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