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Avoid the thorny issue of inflamed and sensitive tissue — Buy a goat!

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Who knew that thorny plants can cause arthritis?

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By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My wedding band is living in my wife’s jewelry box until the swelling goes down. When I bend that finger, there’s trickle of pain accompanied by an urge to buy goats. Strange but true.

I’m fortunate to not be suffering from the kind of terrible arthritis that afflicted my father’s hands. I was a little kid watching him at his desk writing letters by hand the first time I learned about arthritis — his one-word answer when I asked why the knuckle on his index finger was so large.

“Does it hurt?” I asked.

“There’s a little trickle of pain that runs through that finger all the time,” he said.

Dad was in his 30s at that time. I’ve put in nearly six decades with no arthritis in my hands to speak of, and I’m thankful.

Right now I’m getting a tiny taste of what Dad went through. I’m not handling it nearly so well. Unlike his pain, however, mine stands a good chance of going away. I’m thankful for that, too.

Still, the circumstances behind my single-knuckle arthritis are just crazy. I never knew that “plant thorn arthritis” was a thing. It’s a painful thing, and more than a good enough reason to own goats.

There is a half-acre patch of wild and wooly wetland on our family farm that we call the goat lot. It got the name after my father discovered that mowing it was impossible. So he built a fence and put in goats.

Those goats are the reason I can never stomach dairy products derived from goat milk. I’m convinced that people who can acquire a taste for goat cheese have never hauled that particular animal in a farm truck with a wooden bed.

Aside from narrowing my culinary choices, the goats did a magnificent job keeping the brush at bay. They’ve been gone for years, however, and the goat lot was becoming a thicket of briars and thorny scrub trees.

The day after Thanksgiving, my brother and I went in with chainsaws. I wish we’d hauled in more goats instead. A smelly old goat can chomp down on the thorniest of plants and never bat a freaky sideways eye. A single thorn pokes through my work glove, and all hell breaks loose.

I pulled out the thorn and thought nothing of it. But the knuckle swelled and stiffened and has been in that condition ever since.

The diagnosis came from that esteemed medical encyclopedia known as Google. The article was accompanied by a ghastly photograph of someone’s hand opened up during surgery. Makes me queasy just writing about it.

According to the article, my finger likely will remain in its puffy and painful state until I have the same surgery to remove the thorn fragments that apparently remain under the skin.

An article in a medical journal reports similar cases involving children who had fallen into thorny plants and were suffering from plant thorn arthritis in a knee. Their inflammation and pain went away after microscopic thorn fragments were surgically flushed out.

Not everyone stuck by a briar will develop plant thorn arthritis. This brings to mind an obvious question in need of scientific research: Is there something in retch-inducing goat milk that can immunize humans against the potentially poisonous effect of a thorn prick?

Never mind. I’ll take the knife.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him in Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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