Love and Death, Down the Tubes


tick tubes

You live with a woman more than a quarter-century, you figure you know her intimately. She doesn’t surprise you very often anymore. She doesn’t throw you any real curveballs.

Then she starts collecting empty toilet paper tubes.

Why? you ask.

Oh, these aren’t going to be toilet paper tubes very much longer.

I see, you reply. What are they going to be?

They’re going to be tick tubes.

Tick tubes?

Yes. Tick tubes.

It seems my dear Kristina read something online about a surefire way to deal with the problem of ticks on one’s property. The folks at “” teach “primitive skills,” “bushcraft,” and “traditional living.” I guess if there’s anyplace on earth where the living is traditional, it’s Ipswich, Massachusetts (est. 1634). Practical Primitive also teaches “wilderness survival,” which might come in handy during the 22nd or 23rd Article at Town Meeting.

Kristina seems to have drunk the Practical Primitive Kool-Aid. She’s collecting empty toilet paper tubes, just like the nice man in the online video told her to.

How will these toilet paper tubes kill the ticks? you ask weakly, pondering what it will cost to put her into long-term assisted living.

Oh, the tubes won’t kill the ticks, she replies. The permethrin will kill the ticks. Permethrin is an insecticide originally derived from chrysanthemums. And as insecticides go, it’s pretty safe. See, the trick with ticks is to kill the right critter. As you pursue the purge of your pests, you don’t want to accidentally assassinate your Abyssinian. Permethrin, as it turns out, isn’t bad for birds or murder on mammals. It’s just hell for ticks. It also bonds to the soil, so it won’t leach into the Ipswich River and turn your tapwater tawny.

So how (you ask timidly) do you lure the ticks into this death-tube?

Oh, the ticks don’t come into the tubes. The mice carry the permethrin to the ticks.

The mice? Darling, are you sure you don’t want me to call the doctor? We could get you some nice meds.

The mice (she continues) come into the tubes because they want the dryer lint.

The dryer lint?

Yes, we’ll need to start collecting our dryer lint, too.

It’s sad. She seemed so young and healthy, just yesterday.

First you spray the permethrin on the dryer lint (she says), and let it dry. Then you stuff the middle third of the toilet paper tubes with the drugged lint. And then you take the tubes to the mice.

Like little gifts? you ask. Little birthday presents? For our backyard buddies?

No, silly (she replies), you put the tubes wherever mice are likely to be passing through. Or chipmunks, or squirrels. Rodents and other small mammals love dryer lint for their nests.

That’s nice, you say. But what you’re thinking is, She’s a respected member of the Ipswich Recreation & Culture Committee. She sits on the Design Review Board. She’s an internationally acclaimed documentary-art photographer. And she’s leaving dryer-lint offerings for the tiny gods of the Animal Kingdom.

So, darling (you finally say), I don’t want to upset you, but what about the ticks? We started out by talking about ticks.

Yes! she cries triumphantly. The ticks are riding on the mice! The tiniest ticks — the larvae and the nymphs — attach themselves to the smallest animals. A mommy mouse works our poisoned dryer lint into her nest. Her babies are comfy-cozy — but her ticks are toast. It’s brilliant!

You look at your wife. Her eyes are shining. Whether they’re beautifully-serene-shining or scary-crazy-shining, you’re not quite sure. She sure seems serious, though. Hmmm. You think back over your decades of marriage. You’ve made the mistake of contradicting her before, and it isn’t pretty. And actually, when you think about it, what harm can it do to go along? As long as she doesn’t send me door to door, begging empty toilet paper tubes from our neighbors.

Doug? she calls from the bathroom. We’re going to need more. Could you run over to the Buchanans’ and…?


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