Am I accident prone? You be the judge

When I was a newborn the nurse dropped me on the floor through the outstretched arms of my mother and broke my collarbone in two places. I went home in a body cast. A few years later I flew over the handlebars of my bicycle and broke my left arm and left leg. The following year I was hit between the eyes with a golf ball and broke my nose in seven places. I woke up with my eyes swollen shut. In 1991 I had my hand slammed in the breech block of an 8-inch howitzer in the Army. Broke six bones. Then I severed the ulnar artery in my right forearm on a piece of glass in 1992. I lost four and a half pints of blood on the half mile trip to the Ti hospital. On Dec. 11, 1993 I was shot in the throat with a 12-gauge slug just under the Adams Apple. Lost my jugular vein and half my left lung. Then I totalled my Chevy Beretta on the way back from physical therapy. Are you seeing a trend here? Ive broken bones skiing. Dislocated both knees. Had numerous concussions. Wrecked dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles. Been run over by my own truck. It got so bad at one point that my own father said hed get off any plane I got on. So when I woke up the other morning covered in quarter-sized burns and blisters I wasnt all that surprised. This is new, I thought, poking at the contusions on my arms and legs. It looked like someone had dumped the boiling grease from a turkey fryer over my noggin. Felt like it too. Turns out there is a non-native plant here in the Rondacks that can burn you as bad as a Vermont Castings Woodstove. Its called wild parsnip, and I got into a bunch while weeding my dog kennel last Saturday morning. Also turns out that the sap from this stuff makes your skin completely susceptible to the suns rays. Its not the sap that gives you third degree burns its where the sun meets the sap. Of course I was oblivious to this at the time, and spent most of the afternoon Saturday in the sun with the kids at a water park in Lake George. I dont think it could have played out much worse for you, said Naja Kraus, a Forest Health & Protection Program Botanist with the DEC. I forwarded photos of my welt-covered extremities to Kraus, who politely asked if she could use them to educate folks about the potency of the plant. Do you mind if I use you as a test case? She asked. Nope, I replied. Im actually quite used to that. Kraus said the parsnip burns will probably turn to scars which will remain susceptible to the sun for years. There goes my modeling career. Youll want to keep the area covered from the sun for at least the next two years, she said. Super, I thought. Ill be the one on the beach wearing a turtleneck and gloves. Kraus said shes seeing more poisonous parsnip this year than ever before - mainly because of how wet our summer has been. Were seeing it everywhere, she said. Along the roads, in ditch lines and fields. The plant is pretty easily identifiable, Kraus said. It is native to Europe and Asia and was brought to this country because of its attractive yellow flower clusters that resemble tiny doilies. Its stem is grooved and smooth and the plant can grow up to five or six feet in height. Those that do come in contact with the plant should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and stay out of the sun until the sap is removed from the skin. This plant is here to stay and people need to educate themselves in identifying it, Kraus said. Wish I had. Now if I could only foresee wayward bullets, plane crashes, car rollovers and falling meteorites ... John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com.

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