It is January in Central Texas and a great evil has invaded the land. This is the time of year when we should be outside reveling in the crisp coolness (because in this part of Texas we have two seasons: unbearably hot and humid and cool), but we can’t. Instead, we have to retreat and become prisoners in our own homes.
Who or what is this culprit? Cedar. Or rather ashe juniper.
One puff of that blessedly cool north wind plucks that stuff off the trees and flings it into the air where, like a battalion of storm troopers in Star Wars, it lies in wait for some unlucky soul to come by and inhale them. All thousands of grains of pollen in every cubic meter of air.
Sniff, sniffle and snort. That is how it starts. We reach for the meds, fully intending to blast it away and at first it works. It really does. We’re chasing it down and think we’ve got it beat. But then, just like the time Han Solo rounded a corner when he was chasing the storm troopers in Star Wars – HOLY S***! RUN!
The music is different but did you see that look on Han’s face when he came face to face with the storm troopers? That is what we look like when realization dawns that the cedar is going to win.
Take a look at the mustardy-looking brown stuff in this picture. Those, my friends, are hordes upon hordes of microscopic storm troopers in disguise, lying in wait until something comes along and sends them flying in the air. And with every breath we take they will coat the inside of our sinus cavity and our lungs until we are immobilized and defeated.
Hack, cough, sniff, sniffle, snort. It makes the eyes burn and the head feel three feet thick. Then the congestion snakes its way down the throat making it burn and itch until it is raw and hurts to swallow. Finally the congestion gets in the lungs and guess what? If one is not careful, bronchitis and sometimes even pneumonia can develop.
Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra and Sudafed (both the real stuff that’s behind the pharmacy counter and the over-the-counter version) fly off the shelves in record numbers.
Many turn to allergists for shots to help them desensitize but for some of the really unfortunate ones, those shots only serve to increase their sensitivity to the pollen.
I also know some who have resorted to the old-fashioned remedy of downing shots of hard liquor, like whiskey, to burn the gunk off the back of the throat. Tequila would be my liquor of choice if I ever had to do that. Quarters anyone?
Now, I would never advocate that one should battle the
storm trooper horde cedar like that but, you know, I am just saying that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Anyway, it is truly amazing how something so microscopic can fell even the most hardy person. It can barely be seen, but the caption of this photo from Gulliver’s Travels says, “I lay all this while, as the reader may believe, in great uneasiness.” Well, there ain’t no uneasiness here buddy. It is freaking downright misery. Find me a blaster, Han. I am coming with you.
The enormous amount of cedar that is in this area is because of human intervention starting about two hundred years ago. Much of the Texas Hill Country then was a type of grassland with very small amounts of cedar and oak dotted here and there (I learned that when I did research for my novel). Anyway, when the Anglo North Americans arrived we saw all that beautiful grass so we brought our cattle and let them eat it all. The cedar then expanded until now the Hill Country consists of denuded rocky hills and cedar but very little grass.
If it were up to me, I would clear out every one of those damnable trees and do what I could to help the land to revert back to the way it was before our arrival.
Now I do have to say that cedar does have one redeeming quality. But only one. It is the quality of its wood. Cedar is an aromatic grain that, in the hands of a master woodworker, can be turned into a most beautiful piece. When made into cedar chests, it makes clothes and blankets smell so much better than those nasty smelling moth balls.
So why don’t we do that? Why don’t we put out the call to harvest those infernal cedar trees? We could turn them into mulch or, better yet, allow the woodworkers make something beautiful out of it. Imagine that. Taking something that causes untold human misery and turn it into something beautiful. I think I like the sound of that. What do you think?
I would sure love to hear from you but it is January so make sure you give me some space. The battle with the evil empire is still raging and I would hate for the horde to turn its eyes on you and attack you.
Han! Wait for me!