In Which We Discuss Poison Ivy

January 30 – One of the things we see on I walk that is NOT a pleasant sight is the poison ivy that seems to be spreading out a lot more than it did in the beginning. Even the mention of this “horrible plant” reminds me of my teaching days back in Pennsylvania.

180130_Poison ivy leaves

[ Red poison ivy leaves in the fall ]

A number of the kids had much too close contact with this three-leaf plant no matter how hard I tried to keep them from it. In those days just about the only thing that could help to ease the burning pain was calamine lotion. Repeatedly I cautioned the kids to stay away from the poison ivy, but life in the woods around the school was so much fun, that they couldn’t resist.

One day, around lunchtime, I was sitting at my desk, enjoying a little time off from teaching and just finishing my lunch. Several of the kids walked up to my desk and asked, “Mrs. F. you said you had never had poison ivy, right?” “Sure! I just don’t get it,” I said, “but my mom was full of it all summer. Some people just aren’t bothered by such things, but I am lucky!”

“Well,” answered the ringleader of the little group,” I’ll bet you’re going to get it now!” He said this as he carefully rubbed a bit of paper towel full of poison ivy all over my arm! Now that surely wasn’t very nice, and looking back over forty years, I suppose I should have turned him in to the principal, but I didn’t! How often those kids had to come up to my desk for a question or checked out my arm in discussion groups! And how disappointed they were when just a tiny little bump came up in the area before school was out. No poison ivy the next day, or the next, and finally they believed me!

180130_Chain swing

[ Trees along the trail ]

Now back to our poison ivy in Missouri after moving out here from Pennsylvania. One day I was clearing out a section of the woods, including tall trees with vines growing up around the trunk. Grabbing the first vine I held it tightly in my hands and pulled, and pulled until the tree was clean, and there was a big pile of vines on the ground. I kept at this task for most of the afternoon and did a fine job of clearing off the trunks of those very high trees.

By the next morning, I thought some reddish spots on my arms and neck looked pretty strange. As I remembered, the job I had done the day before, the thought that crossed my mind was poison ivy – no, it couldn’t be! But several days later when the redness and itching had spread, I began to wonder…

After about a week had passed by, and the red places were seeping and burning, I thought I had better go to a doctor. And he said first thing, “Have you been around poison ivy?” “Well, maybe,” I said, “but I’m not sure because all of the stuff that I cut down didn’t look like the kind I knew back in Pennsylvania. Besides, I DON’T get poison ivy. Never had it in my whole life!”

“Well,” said the doctor, “you’ll never be able to say that again if you tell the truth! You DO have a very bad case of poison ivy, and I’m going to prescribe medication to help you get rid of it!” And in the days to come, I could see that he really was right!

180130_Poison ivy stalks

[ Poison ivy bare stalks ]

Sometimes I still try to get rid of at least some of the unwanted poison ivy, but I am very careful to wear long pants, long sleeved shirt, and gloves, and to wait till the poison ivy has stopped growing for the winter and has lost all of its leaves. I must admit that I can’t really have a conversation with it, but sometimes when I am cutting down these unwanted plants, I say right out loud, “OK, my friend! I gotcha that time!”

Knowing that I wanted to write something more about this plague, I walked back to one of the paths just outside the woods, carrying my camera with me. Would you believe that the trail I was walking on had absolutely no signs of the poison ivy flowers I was looking for? Not even one, and it seemed as if I wasn’t in the right place to find any of those reddish flowers.

So I would leave that area and march back through the trail to another place where I had always been leery of straying from the path, lest I end up with the much unwanted poison ivy. I had to walk three quarters of the trail before I finally found several low plants with some “lovely” reddish poison ivy. Now they had just the bare stalks, but no flowers I could easily identify (which is what I was looking for), because I wanted something more than a completely bare and unlovely stalk, just waiting to nab another walker next year. Oh well! – CHRIS

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