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This week Jinny’s article will be written by her daughter, Adele Anderson.

Last year, the town in which I reside decided that it would be a good idea to tear up the street upon which I live and replace the water and sewage lines and put in sidewalks. This involved a great deal of digging and moving about of dirt for many, many months. Simultaneously, someone unknown decided to dig up the lot next door, also involving a lot of earth moving machinery and the flattening of a rather large hill. The result of all this activity has been new water and sewage lines, lovely sidewalks, a lot of dirt for sale next door, displaced ground hogs, and fleas.
On paper, this doesn’t seem like a bad deal. New water lines are good; sidewalks are good; the poor ground hogs could probably get an hour-long show on The Animal Planet, and fleas are manageable, right? Ordinary fleas are, but these are no ordinary fleas. These are nuclear powered, mutant, alien, killer, super fleas. These are demon fleas. These fleas ought to live with Stephan King.
My poor dog, who hitherto had never suffered from a flea problem, turned out to be wildly allergic to them. My older cat, who, in the past, has been far too regal and dignified to be bothered by them, has been reduced to the level of the (gasp!) common domestic pet. The kitten, poor innocent lamb, was brought into the flea nightmare without any choice.
In the beginning, I was not terribly alarmed. I have been around animals all my life. Fleas were not a new phenomenon in my world. I began with the usual remedies and bought them all flea collars. It didn’t take long for me to determine that the flea collars were useless. I was not, however, daunted. I took them all out of the house, got them expensive flea treatments at the vet, bombed the house with guaranteed flea-killing chemicals, washed all their bedding and ours, and brought them back in. I was assured by the vet and the labels on the cans that this would do the trick and we would all be able to continue with our lives flea-free. Not so much. In fact, not at all. I was beginning to get angry. How dare these vermin defy me? This meant war.
By this time, my youngest, Chuck, had left for Florida for a month to visit with his father and older brother. It was just me against the fleas and I was determined. The fleas were going down.
I sought the advice of others who were veterans of the war against parasites. I was told to use flea eliminating powder on the rugs before vacuuming. It didn’t work. I was advised to bomb the house a second time. It was a waste of time. My office assistant’s mother told me to give the animals garlic in their food. I introduced them to Italian cuisine. I rented a steam cleaner and shampooed all the carpets and furniture. Nothing made a difference. I called an exterminator. Once he ascertained that I could not afford his services, he offered me some free advice. “Consider moving,” he said, and hung up.
I sat in my kitchen and stared at the phone. The dog scratched and looked at me with sad brown eyes. My house smelled like garlic/chemical soup. Who could I call for help now? Animal Control? An Entomologist at the University? A priest? I was desperate.
Finally, like all desperate people, I turned to the Internet. I spent hours researching fleas and flea control. There were so many sites I put my office assistant on it to help me. This was, of course, a gross misuse of an employee, but he is fond of me and offered his help. We discovered that there are at least 40 species of fleas in North America, the eggs can live up to 2 years in stasis in carpets and furniture, and they are considered one of the seven plagues of ancient Egypt. The fact that they rated right up there with lice, locusts, drought, and the Red Death came as no surprise to me. After much research and having to look at many hideous pictures of fleas under a microscope, I found a site dedicated to the stories of those battle-scarred warriors who had faced the fleas and been victorious. I found several references to a secret weapon the war against fleas; a weapon so powerful and so devastating that even the most evil and determined vermin could not stand against it. Borax.
Ok, I remembered Borax. When I was little, in the pre-nonbiogradeable plastic years, my mother used to soak my brother’s diapers in it. There was a cool commercial on TV with a cowboy driving a wagon hitched to mules and the words, “20 Mule Team Borax,” in big red letters. But did they still make it? If so, where could it be found?
I went to my local grocery store, and lo and behold, they had Borax. It was on the top shelf, way in the back, but they had it. I climbed on the bottom shelf to reach it.
“If you’re getting Borax, could you get me one?” said a voice below me.
I climbed down and handed a box to an elderly lady standing beside me.
“What have you got?” she asked.
“Fleas” I said. “You?”
“Fire Ants” she said sadly.
“Yeah. They are all over my yard. Someone told me to get small pieces of plastic pipe, mix the Borax with sugar, put it in the pipes, and put them all around my property. I hope this works.”
“You and me both.” I told her.
So began my Borax fueled battle in the eradication of fleas. Using a small, hand-held sifter, I sprinkled it on everything; carpets, furniture, and animal bedding. I washed my laundry, floors, curtains and cushions in it. Every night of my life for a month was spent vacuuming up Borax for hours. I fed the animals garlic and combed them with a flea comb twice a day. They began running when they saw me coming. My daughter came over and helped. My sons called from Florida to check on my progress.
“Mom,” said my 22-year-old, “you think you’re maybe going a bit crazy with the Borax and garlic?”
“Desperate times demand desperate measures.” I told him.
“Why don’t you just buy a bunch of wooden toothpicks and drive them through their little flea hearts?” he suggested.
“Ha ha.” I said. “If you were here you would realize that this is Flea Wars, Attack of the Fleas, The Fleas Strike Back, and Revenge of the Fleas. But I will, thanks to garlic and Borax, emerge victorious.” He may have had some concerns regarding my mental health at this point.
The war is not over yet, but I have significantly reduced the enemy numbers. I vacuum every day and take a moment to look into the clear canister and smirk at the fleas I find either dead or in the last throes of a horrible Borax-induced death. My animals are more comfortable, my carpets and furniture are cleaner than they have ever been, my house has a nice Boraxy smell and I take comfort in the knowledge that I am personally helping the nice people at Borax keep their jobs. Borax rocks. I am now the official Baroness of Borax.
I hope the lady with the Fire Ants is as happy as I am.
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