The house I grew up in at the end of Trees Mill Road in Salem Township had a large yard surrounded by woods, with a stream contaminated by acid-mine drainage. I say that because it was rust colored and nothing ever lived in it.
My brother Dan and I spent long summers riding bikes and bottle hunting in the dumps left by the miners and railroad workers who camped here in the early 20th century. We collected bottles that contained medicines or whiskey and sold them by running ads in the newspaper. We learned the oldest ones were smooth and had no machine markings or had raised letters indicating their contents.
The road was named for Mr. Trees, who allegedly had mills nearby. We excavated what we thought was his stone foundation at the highest elevation of the couple acres we owned. When we moved into our new house in 1969, a snake-filled barn still stood. After my dad found out we’d been playing in it, he knocked it down with his excavating equipment.
We took from the remains of the house and barn to build a clubhouse. I picked flowers that decorated the “fireplace” we built from chipped brick. We placed weathered barn planks for floors with the pointed sides of the rusty nails down, away from our feet. It’s a miracle we never got lockjaw.
Last Memorial Day was an itchy reminder of the summers I spent playing in the woods. I got poison ivy for the first time in more than 30 years while attempting to weed and mulch around my house. I can’t believe I still don’t recognize the plant, but I have learned you get the rash from any part, any time. And you should never burn it. You could breathe it in. Needless to say, I didn’t bother with calamine lotion or the agony of wanting to rip my skin off. I went straight to the doctor.
Here are some rhymes that are supposed to help identify the plant:
“Leaflets three; let it be,” is the best known, and is supposed to apply to poison oak, as well as poison ivy.
“Hairy vine, no friend of mine.”
“Berries white, run in fright” and “Berries white, danger in sight.”
Or, you could just warn the landscaper.