Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 6.26.17
Stanstead, Quebec


Lions and tigers and ticks, oh my!

Say hello to my little friend.

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, is it because everyone's afraid they're going to get lyme disease? Probably. This summer, the tiniest of insects are public enemy number one and people are avoiding the woods in droves.

Good! There were too many people in the woods anyway, especially in those stupid droves of theirs. When I go to the woods, people are the last people I want to see. So thank you, deer ticks.

Everyone's afraid of tick-borne lyme disease this summer, even people whose only exposure to the woods has been photographs in Sport Illustrated's 2013 pinecone-themed swimsuit edition. (Favourite portfolio: "Strapless But Not Sapless.")

That's because lyme disease is this year's Ebola scare, which was 2014's H1N1 scare, which was 2009's West Nile virus scare, which had a good run there from 1999 to 2007. (Get your West Nile 10th Anniversary T-shirt today!)

If you believe the hype, the woods are teeming with ticks, hanging out in little tick gangs, swinging little tick chains and snapping their little tick fingers. They make lewd tick comments as hikers stroll by: "I'd love to embed my head in you, baby!" and "Mmmm, check out the bare shin on that one! I feel myself getting engorged already!" They drop down from the trees like ninjas. Or they push you out of your drove and tackle you to the ground. Next thing you know they adhere themselves to you; they tick.

Ticks are gross, of course, and they're terrible conversationalists too boot. It's natural to hate them. No one wants another creature plunging itself headfirst into your body, unless it's Scarlett Johansson. But the truth is most people wouldn't know a tick from a tock. In addition, surveys show that 2 out of 7 Canadians have no idea what lyme disease actually is. Another 3 out of 5 Canadians believe those statistical figures that I completely made up just now.

We recently learned that our dog has lyme disease. Symptoms include sleeping a lot, climbing on furniture, smelling bad and pooping on the basement floor when we've left her in the house too long. In other words, business as usual. The only change is that twice a day we have to give her two big pills, which we hide in a piece of juicy chicken or a soft chunk of cheese. So the dog and lyme disease? Big fan!

Not that I'm making fun of lyme disease. It is a serious illness. I think. I'm 2 out of 7.

But to get back to the woods, people love to have something to be afraid of, especially if it's an excuse not to go outdoors. But in fact, everything carries some risk. People have been killed using treadmill machines but you don't see people avoiding the gym. Well, this people does, but that's not due to a fear of death but a general fear of humiliation with an overarching sense of laziness.

If you think about it, lyme disease is just the tick of the iceberg. Here are other things you should fear in the woods:

  • Lightning.
    Steep hills.
  • Things with teeth.
  • Poisonous mushrooms. Sure, you say, just don't eat any mushrooms. But what if you trip and fall mouthfirst onto a Freddy Kruger skullcap or an amoral morel?
  • Tetanus. Recently we had our roof done, and our daughter stepped on a nail. It punctured her skin, which is how you get tetanus. Also Roofer's Syndrome, which is similar to shingles. Anyway, we checked our records and her tetanus shot was up-to-date, so it turns out this isn't a very exciting story. But, tetanus is in dirt, the woods are very dirty, and much like this story, tetanus is bad.
  • Bengal tiger traps. (Not available in all woods.)
  • Bengal tigers. (See above.)
  • Treadmills. Dangerous in gyms, doubly so in swamps.
  • Teddy bear picnics. If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise: botulism. Teddy bears put out a great spread but have no concept of refrigeration. Avoid the teddy bear creamy coleslaw and stick instead with the teddy bear bean salad. Also: never ask for a bear claw.
  • Seniors. They walk super slow, they weave all over the woods, and they never use their turn signal. A menace of the woods on par with the Bengal tiger.
  • Falling trees. The silent killers.
  • Arboreal extremists. They hate our lifestyle, and they hate our protein gels. And rightfully so.
Of course, chances are you'll stay perfectly safe this summer. Them's the odds. But if you do end up with lyme disease, remember: treats!