It was bound to happen to me, sooner or later. After spending over four decades tramping through the deep Adirondack woods, hauling boats over the carries and rowing through the ponds, I've finally been felled.
However it didn't occur in the expected manner. There were no heavy loads involved this time, as there were when I ruptured a disk hauling a guideboat on my shoulders.
I didn't sink into a muck hole, nor fall off a cliff. It wasn't due to a bout of Beaver Fever (Giardia), and there were no firearms involved. I didn't lose my way, nor cast a fly into my behind, where it would be irretrievable to a common man.
It was not a dramatic injury, and there were no bears, coyotes or bobcats involved. I didn't have to sink or swim, nor run and hide. In fact, the culprit was one in a million, or possibly in a trillion, that I've been safely dealing with for years.
I didn't even notice the injury at first, until my ear began to itch a bit. The following day there was a tingling in my ear, which soon turned into a numbness. I repeatedly attempted to pop my ears, as familiar sounds became increasingly dull.
My right ear was fine, and I was able to grin and bear the increasingly scratchy pain in my left. So, I set about doing what I usually do: carrying heavy loads, pulling on the oars, wading the streams and telling a few tall tales inbetween.
However after suffering through a few days of numbness in my ear, which was counteracted by the dumbness in my head, I finally decided to visit a doctor.
Fortunately, I only had to wait a day two for an appointment, which was a good thing since my balance was beginning to deteriorate, and I was beginning to wobble about like a drunken sailor on a choppy sea.
In the time between my appointment and the actual doctor's visit, I became a bit deaf in the affected ear, which itched like a bad case of poison ivy. My equilibrium was noticeably off kilter, although friends have long claimed I've always been a bit off balance.
Finally, the day of the appointment arrived. As the doctor entered the room with a stethoscope around her neck, I was probing my inner ear with my pinky with the intensity of a leatherneck drilling for oil.
She quickly admonished me: "Never put anything smaller than an elbow into your ear canal," she said before she proceeded to stuff a small scope into the very same canal that had recently enveloped two knuckles of my pinky finger.
"Ahh, I think see the problem,"she exclaimed. "Does it feel like you had anything in your ear, possibly a bug or some foreign object?"
"Yeah, I've got something in my ear," I responded. "I've got a lot of pain, and itching and I've begun to lose my balance."
"Well, it looks like there's something in here," she explained. "And you've got an ear infection as well. I'll have to irrigate your ear and see if we can wash it out."
"Irrigate?" I said under my breath. "My mother always claimed I could cultivate potatoes in my dirty ears, but I never believed it was actually possible."
"We'll rinse out your ear," the doctor explained as she put a squirt bottle to the side of my head and began to spray warm water into my ear.
I asked her if I should plug the hole on the other side of my noggin in case water began to dribble out.
She laughed and soon offered up the culprit, asking, "Did it feel like you had a bug in your ear at some point?"
Then I?saw it, floating in the suds that dribbled out of my head. It was a fat black fly.
At this point, I laughed too and explained, "For the past three weeks, I've had nothing but bugs in my ears, nose, eyes and hair. In fact they've managed to enter any orifice on my person that was left open or exposed.
"Well," she explained. "You've got an inner ear infection, and you'll need to rinse the ear daily for a week. I'll also give you a prescription for antibiotics. It looks like you'll be all right."
I settled up with a nice, young lady at the front desk and departed the office without the sizable chunk of cash I had arrived with. By my reckoning, it was a pretty damned expensive blackfly, but it provided a valuable lesson.
In the future, I'll cover up more, spray often and pray. There is little else that can be done to protect against the 'Winged Devils of the North," but as one old timer explained, "Their just the same as the damned tourists! They show up, buzz around for awhile, pester us for a bit; but after a while, we've learned how to live with ''em, so we just swat 'em and scratch 'em and send 'em on their way.
"Look at it this way," he remarked. "Maybe a bug in yer ear was a good thing. With a little luck, you won't be able to hear 'em complain anymore."
A week later, my wounds have healed and there are no more soap suds bubbling out of my ears. I've also retrieved the impenetrable, bug-proof undergarments from the bottom of my dresser and added a bug net to my kit. For I know the blackflies won't quit.
I'll spend a little extra for fresh bug dope, and I'll cover up any exposed skin. The bugs will be back, and I'll be better protected, even if I do look goofy wearing earmuffs in the middle of June!
Now all I'll have to put up with are the annual 'amber waves' of pine pollen, the deer flies, horse flies and no-see-ums. Ahhh . . . the joys of summer.