Editorial: Bugging out

Usually the conversation here is about the outsiders who want to have a place here in the country, their own piece of this little bit of heaven called Rappahannock County. These are the people known as the newcomers or the come-heres.

But what of the newgoers or the go-theres?

In just this past week, I’ve encountered two people who are pulling up stakes here to move elsewhere. Both are relative newcomers, having built their dream homes here within the last quarter century. Why in the world do they now want to leave Rappahannock?

The usual reasons that Americans offer for relocating are not relevant: to escape crime or un-neighborly neighbors; to change jobs; to reunite with family; to flee high costs of living; to follow economic opportunities. Instead, the reason cited is arthropods!

As in a sci-fi horror movie, the arthropods are taking over the county and driving away human inhabitants – at least two residents, anyway. Are these would-be refugees the start of a trend?

“It’s like a medieval pestilence,” says one Rappahannocker whose house is already on the market. “At first, these stink bugs were just an annoyance to be dealt with, but when they get in your coffee pot in the morning and crawl on your pillow at night . . .” That’s not the only reason he’s moving to New England, but it’s near the top of his list.

At the top of another resident’s list is that other ubiquitous arthropod – not an alien invasive insect but an indigenous arachnid. “I can’t even walk out my cabin door 100 yards down the path to my pond without finding my legs covered in ticks,” he says. Wood ticks, dog ticks, deer ticks . . . ticks and ever more insidious ticks.

A tick gave his wife Rocky Mountain spotted fever. His dog almost died from tick-bite-induced kidney failure. Some friends and neighbors are still suffering from the consequences of initially undiagnosed Lyme disease.

“I moved to Rappahannock because of my love of the outdoors,” he says, “but now I’m afraid to even go outdoors.”

Walter Nicklin