Tick bites were not too unusual. As a child we’d visit our Grandma in Wisconsin, only to come in from the field with ticks crawling over us, and as a result, allover the house. Hunting trips to southeast Oregon where ticks were common, ticks on our dogs and especially on deer we hunted from the back 40. Gross, but not dangerous unless they burrowed deep into the flesh.
Summer 2009 I was out in the woods with my camera, walking a loop on one of the many logging roads that cut through the landscape on the northwest coast. Often I would ride one of our horses, but today I was on foot as I wanted to capture even the little things. I loved wildlife/nature photography; it was my delight in life to catch still moments of the magnificent and seemingly insignificant animals and foliage around the beautiful countryside I grew up in. Our property was half timber and with dense underbrush of the west coast, it was best to stick to the trail. Making the loop, starting from our old farmhouse I walked up, up, up the hills stopping here and there, reminiscing earlier parts of my summer spent in a very rural native camp in Alaska with one of my closest girl friends.
A leaf shot with sunlight behind it, now to catch the beetle scurrying out of sight; I missed him! I meandered from the top down, down, down toward our fields, unlatching the gray metal gate and slipping through, being certain to re-latch it behind me. Our horses were notorious for getting out, some even learning to work the latch with their lips.
Halfway through the first field I noticed a pain on the outside of my left arm, just under the t-shirt sleeve. I went to scratch it and felt a round, hard bump. Wondering when I had received a wound-scabbed-over, I twisted my arm around to look. To my amazement I found a little black tick, eagerly sucking away on my flesh. I’d had ticks before though it was the first I had in that lush, green countryside I called home. Disgusted, I picked it off and threw it down into the grass. It was then that I noticed how strange the bite was: a red spot where the tick had attached its greedy little mouth and swollen looking flesh approx ½ inch in diameter that rose to a point resembling a mountaintop at the center of which stood the tick’s bite. And around the swollen bump was a red circle, a dark band under 1 inch in diameter.
Strange. I’d never seen that from a tick bite before. It was as if something had really irritated my flesh. Perhaps it had been there longer than I’d realized and the sucking force had caused bruising. Thinking nothing more of it, I continued on my way through the fields toward home. I was leaving for Canada in another month to attend Bible college as a 3rd year student with leadership responsibilities and needed to work part-time to get through. I would have forgotten entirely except for the scar that remained on my left arm for the next 2 years, a small brownish red spot.
The college year came and went. I graduated with close friends, obtaining a Bachelor in Biblical Studies. Not that I went for the program. I thought if going I should take something. More than anything, I wanted to learn, learn of people and God’s care over me. Summer 2009 I worked at a horse camp. Loved it! The college then asked me to return and work as an apprentice for fall 2009-spring 2010. Initially thinking to say no, I somehow said yes. And good thing I did, because someone who was going to impact the rest of my life was there. Enter: my future husband.
After that year I returned to horse camp to work a second summer, this time against the wishes of the leadership over me. When so young its easy to believe yourself invincible. More often than not, I found myself weary. The camp had accumulated many horses since the last summer. I took on even more of the training, ended up receiving a kick in the knee by a young Arabian, later was dumped by a large pony while moving pasture and took a pointed rock to the hip. Aside from these injuries, I was feeling weak.
Fall 2010-2011 summer over and gone, I returned to college in the fall, a bit weary from summer but I loved being involved with the Junior Wranglers as well as the full time staff at the camp. Fall-winter was difficult. My body was increasingly growing weaker. I often had to leave work 3x a week to rest during the later part of the afternoon. I plowed through, trying hard to keep it up. Suddenly I was experiencing the urge to vomit every 2-3 hours. Sick, so sick to my stomach. It turned out I had Yersenia Pestis (otherwise known as bubonic plague). After 10 days of heavy antibiotics it lifted. I was seeing doctors in regards to fatigue but with little success in regard to test results. They contributed it to emotional fatigue.
It was during that year I began feeling a draw toward a particular young man like I’d never experienced before. Usually I could shake off that kind of thing. This one…I couldn’t. Blue eyes, curling brown hair, ready with a grin or a laugh anytime anyone wanted fun yet very respected by everyone around. And often I would catch those blue eyes lighting up on me with a very special look in them. I was drawn and we did belong to the same group of friends, so time was spent together.
By the time we reached summer 2011, I was beat. Tired, burnt out, sad that the guy with blue eyes was gone for the summer and yet glad at the same time…. I took the summer off, said a difficult ‘no’ to horse camp, knowing I needed to get my feet under me.
I also began working out intensely as I wanted to take up trick-riding that summer. I was going to be home again and would have plenty of time. I finished work in May, then headed for the States and home.
What a summer it was going to be! My world was going to be shattered, yet as I drove out of the college parking lot, I only felt that it was going to be a summer of recovery from all the emotional trauma that only a dorm full of girls can bring.