Craving Granny's salve - Denese Rodgers

The trip was wonderful, the people were nice, but the insects were voracious.

You know how people normally bring back a conch shell, or some doohickey that the locals made out of banana leaves? Nope, not me. Instead, I left lots of little pieces of myself behind. It was a sort of insect orchestra, with each successive species playing its role in a munch-a-tourist movement.

The mosquitoes took the largest share out of my largest part. We think they waited until I rolled over on my tummy in the sun and, then, they made for my hind quarters as if it were a smorgasbord. I hope they got indigestion.

One day, we went snorkeling. Have you ever heard of Medusas? They got the next most plentiful parts-o-Denese. For someone like me (blind as a bat), they are invisible. Stuart swore that he saw them and that they were tiny, clear, little, itty-bitty jellyfish.

They chewed on the insides of anything tender -- underarms, backs of knees, ribcage. To have been that tiny, they were remarkably accurate in finding the point of most pain to inflict. I just haven't figured out whether I chose the wrong place to jump into the ocean, or if they were in cahoots with the mosquitoes -- waiting until I was wearing flippers, and vulnerable.

Last, but not least, were the no-see-ums. We have these in the states, too. The ones down there had actually evolved to a lean, mean, biting machine. I am absolutely convinced that these critters were actually a very sharp single tooth with wings.

No racket, virtually invisible, and one bite would have you swatting and flapping like you had been set aflame. I actually leapt up from breakfast one morning when one chomped down on the back of my thigh. Thank Heaven Above, we did not find any redbugs. I shudder to think of how predatory they would have been.

When we got home, I realized that my lovely, short-lived, tan looked kinda funny with all those itchy bite marks. The bite marks weren't close enough together for it to look like color. It looked more like I was contagious.

So I went hunting for my Granny Ouzts' salve. I've got to find this stuff. She gave it to me when I was a kid, and it has lasted forever, cause as she said, "A little dab'll do you."

It was white, no real smell to it, and it felt so-o-o-o good on whatever you had burned, poked, or scratched. I do recall that it was actually from her pharmacist, but I doubt seriously that it was a prescription. I think it was more of a self-defense mechanism created by the apothecary as a shield against the mosquitoes where she lived in Cairo, Ga.

In lieu of finding that glorious panacea, I've got three other choices. I've got a bottle of Wong To Yick Chinese medicine that is sort of a souped up liniment. I've got a really old bottle of Dr. Tischner's. No -- it is mostly witch hazel and that'll burn like the Dickens where I've scratched too much.

Tischner's was actually one of those that was better for ticks and redbugs. Last, but not least, is my trusty bottle of aloe. It is laced with lidocaine and menthol. I keep mine in the refrigerator for just such occasions as these. The stuff looks kinda odd -- it is the color of the water in the log ride at Six Flags, but it works wonders on sunburn, bug bites, and other assorted itchie-owies.

And maybe I'll spend a week or so on my screened porch until the memory -- and the marks -- fade just a little ...

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-services, networking, community organization in Henry County.