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This must be the place

art garretGetting poison ivy is my official sign summer is here.

Like old men whose knees ache when there’s an impending storm, the symbolic rash and blisters are Mother Nature’s way of telling me spring is over. Ever since I was kid, I always seemed to catch poison ivy at least once during the summer months.


Growing up in Rouses Point, N.Y., a rural outpost community smack dab on the Canadian border and the vast Lake Champlain, my childhood home was surrounded by cornfields and thick tree lines. All of us neighborhood kids would make forts way back against those tree lines. We’d spend all day tracking down materials from my large barn — old wood, rusty nails or unused paint — in order to make our structure stable enough to withstand any attack from outside forces. And, as expected, I would cross paths with poison ivy inside those tree lines, to my mother’s dismay.

It didn’t stop there. I’d catch it at my grandparent’s camp on the lake, hiking a desolate trail in the nearby Adirondack Park, or just wandering, as most of us did in the pre-Internet days. As I got older, I vowed to be more careful, to not expose myself to the wicked week or two of blisters, bumps and uncomfortable bandages. Through high school, I pretty much kept to my vow. But, that small streak of success soon ended in college, where I went on a trip to an empty, picturesque cove on the lake. It was a surreal sight, lying on the sandy beach, sipping a cold beer and watching life drift by. 

And yet, that fun quickly vanished when I had to go to the bathroom. No toilet paper, too far away from the nearest restroom and too many beers later, I found a secluded spot in the deep woods and a handful of leaves I thought were just … well, leaves. Wrong. I couldn’t sit down or walk with ease for the next two weeks. Excruciatingly painful, to say the least.

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So, here I am, in Western North Carolina last weekend (on June 21, the first official day of summer, oddly enough), ready to take my driver shot on Hole 14 at the Waynesville Recreation Center’s disc golf course. It’s probably the meanest hole on the entire course — a dogleg right, down a steep embankment, with the recreation center on one side, brush and a junkyard on the other. 

Normally, I play it conservative and hit a short shot on the fairway, with a clear shot for the hole. But, the weather was nice, a pleasant sunset behind me, and I felt frisky. I chucked the disc for a birdie instead of a smart par. It immediately veered to the left, ducking into the dreaded brush. I shook my head in disgust. Stupid, stupid, Garret. The brush was hard to navigate in the slight darkness and thickness of vegetation. I couldn’t clearly decipher if I was walking through poison ivy. Whatever, I thought, I don’t think I see any, and I need my disc back. I eventually tracked down the disc and, the next morning, the rash and bumps appeared on my leg. 

And thus, my friends, summer is officially here. Whether you’re outside enjoying some live music, barbecuing, hiking, biking or disc golfing, keep an eye out for our old friend, poison ivy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.


Hot picks

1 An array of WWE, WCW, NWA and ECW wrestling superstars swing through the Birdtown Gym in Cherokee for a handful of legendary feuds taken to the ring on July 7.

2 Author Denise Kiernan presents her book, The Girls of Atomic City, about young southern women working for the Manhattan Project on June 29 at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.

3 Country sensation Gary Allan performs at Harrah’s Cherokee on June 28.

4 Broadway musical tribute to legendary theatre composer Stephen Sondheim takes the stage as “Side by Side by Sondheim” at the HART Theatre in Waynesville starting June 28.

5 A “Craft Beer Meet, Greet and Tasting” taps into Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City on June 27.

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