Just a few minutes south of the city of Tucson, lies the ASARCO Mission Copper Mine. The site boasts a small (and free) Mineral Discovery Center and (not free) tours of the facility. If you ever wanted to learn about copper mining or your kids like huge machines (170-ton trucks!) this is the place to go. Our kids are not especially interested in either of those things, but they’re usually up for anything new if we act enthusiastic enough. And where else are we going to get to tour an enormous mining operation? Therefore, we decided to check it out along with a local friend of ours and her two adolescent boys.
We first had a picnic at the tables outside the Discovery Center. Our girls adored the older boys, wanting to hold their hands rather than an adult’s. After lunch, they all played around in the dirt and gravel while we waited for our tour time.
Now, there are lots of cacti in Arizona. From what we had seen, they are a pretty common feature of the environment and any time we were outside the kids were at most 30 feet away from having their day ruined. Usually much closer, like right there next to where we’ve parked.
Have I mentioned that MeToo stumbles around a lot?
Fortunately, we read up on the subject of cactus needle removal before we left home. Some cacti have large spines but the most annoying kind have tons of tiny, hair-thin barbs. Apparently, the best method for removing any type involves putting a bandage soaked in Elmer’s glue on the injured area, which you pull off once the glue dries. Duct tape is almost as good and you don’t need to wait ten minutes for it to dry. Either way, you will need to tweeze out the 5-10% of needles that get left behind. Make sure you use gloves and don’t touch them with your bare hands. Don’t ever put the injured area up to your mouth.
However well-educated we may have been, we neglected to actually pack any duct tape or gloves. Did we have tweezers? Of course. Did we ever bring them with us on our excursions? Of course not.
So there we were in the Sonoran Desert with the kids careening about the place. I monitored their trajectory whenever something else didn’t demand my attention and by the time we needed to get moving, neither MeToo nor RU had impaled themselves on the local flora.
As we head inside for the start of the tour, however, I feel a paper-cut like pain on a spot on my hand. Darned if it doesn’t feel like a tiny needle in my skin. I just use my fingers to pull it out — more by touch than by sight — and wonder where I picked it up from. I had been careful not to brush up against any plants. Then I feel it again in another place on my hand. What the heck? Well, maybe I had gotten into something and not noticed, or maybe they’re small enough to get blown around by the breeze. It was a momentary annoyance, nothing more, so I soon forgot about it.
MeToo, feeling tired during what is usually her nap time, isn’t particularly interested in the videos or exhibits in the Mineral Discovery Center. We’d brought along her Tula, so it looks as though I will be wearing her for the tour. Being sleepy, she wants to be up on my front. No problem; most of the tour will involve a bus ride, anyway.
MeToo dozes on my chest for the first half of the bus ride then suddenly squirms around in the carrier and cries out in pain. I try to get my hand in between us to feel around for anything that could be bothering her, but all I can figure is that she scratched or pinched herself with either the buttons on my shirt or the ones on her sweater. She settles back down and seems fine for the rest of the day.
That night, while getting her pj’s on, I notice what looks like a scratch on her belly. There are some tiny pricks in her skin connected by a red line. I’d almost think they looked like marks from cactus needles, except I was wearing her when she felt them. Her belly was right against me. Must have just hurt herself on my shirt somehow.
The next evening, the line is gone and the remaining pricks look a lot like tiny bug bites. Good thing I know better, right? At one point in the day, she complains that her belly hurts. However, ever since RU’s rather intense stomach bug last month, both the girls occasionally trot that line out just to watch their parents turn white and rush them to the toilet. Good thing I knew better, huh?
Finally, the Wife gets a look at MeToo’s belly. “Where did she get these bug bites?” I confidently explain that, although they sure look like bug bites or cactus sticks, MeToo must have hurt herself on my shirt somehow during the mine tour… Which sounds really dumb when said out loud while looking at a three-day-old sore place clearly not caused by anything other than spines or stingers. Indeed, taking a closer look with her electron-microscope-like Mom Vision, the Wife declares that she can see the cactus needles still in MeToo’s skin. This is three days and at least two baths after the incident.
I suddenly recall the mysterious cactus attack on my own hand not an hour prior to MeToo’s sudden cry of pain while on the tour. Whatever mechanism delivered those spines to my hand may have also deposited some on my, or MeToo’s, clothing. The tiny spurs lingered unnoticed until they were worked through the weave of her sweater by the motion of the tour bus until they pierced her vulnerable toddler-flesh. Elementary, my dear Watson!
After we find the tweezers, the Wife plays Operation on poor MeToo, extracting the needles.
Though no longer pained by them, the marks of the cactus bite (as RU calls it) are still visible nearly a week later.