Updating a few past column topics

I figured this might be a good month for some updates concerning several events I have chronicled in columns past.

A year ago in September, I wrote about the plague of starlings that invaded my backyard trees by the hundreds. I vowed that I would not let them return in 2012. And, I was true to my word.

They tried to come back in July, but I was ready for them. I pulled out the trusty device invented by my colleague at the high school. It is two boards held together with a hinge. I open and close the two pieces rapidly, creating a 100-decibel smack.

For some reason, the birds hate that sound. Even if they are 50 feet in the air, they change directions when they hear the crack of the boards.

I also tossed some firecrackers into the trees at dusk on the days pyrotechnics were legal. I would spend about an hour each evening keeping the black plague on the move. By mid-July, I appeared to have the upper hand.

The starlings tried to return in August, but a few evenings? efforts again discouraged them. I hear they have found refuge in trees in the west part of town. Though I feel sorry for the folks who now have to deal with them, I am not willing to take them back.

Early this spring, the second blight of biblical proportions arrived: ticks. I still say they were a byproduct of the birds the year before. The small creatures were everywhere in my backyard. I tried spraying with over-the-counter insecticides and even covered my yard with diatomaceous earth. Nothing seemed to work.

Then, the summer heat wave hit. I haven?t seen them since the mid-summer drought. If I spot them again, however, I will be ready with something called Tempo. I have been assured by experts in agriculture that this is the one thing that works.

It has been just over 11 months since my adventure with vertigo. As I reported last October, I was coaching a tennis meet in Abilene on a warm fall day. In a span of roughly a minute, I went from feeling perfectly fine to being unable to stand on my own. I spent two or three hours in a chair, trying to keep my world and my stomach from churning violently. I succeeded with neither task.

Eventually, my wife arrived to take me to the emergency room, where I received an intravenous bag of ice water and an otherwise clean bill of health. And, later, a hefty hospital bill.

I went to the local clinic two days later, and I was told I should go see an ear, nose and throat guy. The next available appointment, however, was a month away. I joked that by that time I would either be over it or dead.

This statement proved to be inaccurate on both counts. The doctor looked into my eyes, watching them move from side to side, and immediately determined that I had suffered an attack by a virus in my left inner ear. He said it was likely from a bout of chicken pox I had as a child. He said it could be a long time, perhaps a year or more, before I would be completely cured. That statement proved to be accurate.

My balance improved incrementally, albeit steadily, for the six to nine months following the incident. I still had brief dizzy spells into summer. As the date approached for my annual kids? tennis camp, I began to be concerned about my inability to track a ball hit at me. Would that affect my capacity to feed shots to my campers? What would happen this fall as I returned to coach my high school girls? team?

As it turns out, working with the youngsters this summer seems to have nearly cured my vertigo. I don?t know if there is any scientific basis to that theory, but I definitely noticed an improvement during the week of camp.

So, I can confidently say that I am back to 99 percent of normal, at least as far as my balance is concerned. I?ve taken trips on airplanes. I?ve driven mountain roads. I no longer need to grab onto railings when I am walking stairs in the dark.

Truth be told, I?m not sure I will ever recover that final 1 percent. I don?t see that as a problem, however, unless I want to ride an inverted roller coaster at an amusement park. I used to love to do that. Even after a year, though, being turned upside down in a violent way still seems like a bad idea.

The bout with vertigo was the most ill I have ever been, and I am more than sure I never want to repeat it.

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