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When the Ticks Bite, Reality Sets In

Wood Ticks and North Dakota Tough

The North Dakota ticks keep teaching me that I am not as hardcore as I’d like to believe. After two and a half years of living on the prairie, I thought that I had gotten pretty tough. I moved here without knowing a soul and handled it. I live at least an hour away from an airport, our doctors, even Walmart, and I’ve adapted. But the ticks. The ticks remind me that I am still in a foreign land.

About six months after we moved to Watford City, spring started to show up. My two-year-old and I were elated. We went outside every chance we got, riding bikes, hiking, and making the park circuit in town. One morning, after days of playing outside, I decided that the little guy needed a haircut. I got him snapped into his high chair, turned on a show to distract him, and started going at the back of his head with clippers.

I got halfway up the nape of his neck and I saw it. A big, black, thing stuck to his scalp. I looked closer and screamed. I had never seen a tick before in my life, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. In the least hardcore moment of my life, I started jumping up and down, screaming. I yelled at North Dakota, and the park, and the bugs, and my husband for making me move here, and all the crazy people who ever thought that this was a good place to live. Panic set in. Irrational thoughts moved through my head. But, even if we move TODAY, I told myself, that tick still has to come out.

I had to get it out and I had to do it by myself.

I took to Google: “How to remove a tick,” I typed. Immediately a hundred pictures popped up of engorged ticks. I thought I was going to throw up. I skimmed through ideas and settled on the “grab its back with tweezers and slightly pull until it lets go,” technique. With all the gumption I had, I made little Benji lay his head on the high chair tray, I held him down and went to war against the tick. I made a slew of threats to that little beast as I prodded him out of my baby’s head. Finally, with fists full of little boy skin and hair, the tick was out. I threw him on the ground and stomped, and stomped, and stomped.

I’ve seen how tough North Dakota moms deal with ticks. They find the tweezers, pull the tick out, and move along without much fuss. Every time I witness the calm removal of ticks, I am in awe. No yelling, no swearing. I don’t understand these moms, but I respect them. After a two year span between that first tick encounter until today, I fortunately haven’t had to remove many more. I think I almost convinced myself that I was one of those tough North Dakota moms.

But last week I was snapped back to reality. I was sitting at a friend’s table for lunch with my not-even-one-year-old Theodore. My friend looked over at him, got up, pulled at his ear and exclaimed, “There’s a tick in there.”

Sure enough, one of those little buggers had grabbed on, right on the inside crease of my baby’s ear. I lost it.

A stream of madness came rolling out of my mouth. I cursed North Dakota, and the park, and my husband for making me live here, and all the nasty little ticks who have ever lived, all the while jumping in circles around my baby.

In that moment I realized, I have made no progress at all. I am not hardcore. I am a phony.

Me and the ticks, we don’t mix. But this city girl will forge ahead, taking cues from the brave western North Dakota moms. But for now, I seem to go with the irrational, yelling-at-ticks strategy. I do hope, after prolonged exposure to hardcore moms though, their grit and no-nonsense tactics of dealing with pesky little bugs will start to wear off on me.

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Written by Betsy Ryan

Betsy Ryan

Betsy Ryan resides in Watford City and is a recent transplant to Western North Dakota. She is learning to navigate her new landscape along with her husband and their two boys. Betsy writes for the McKenzie County Farmer and also shares her experiences in North Dakota on her blog,

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