She's a heroine who bats away recognition as if it were a bug. "I've known Florence for so long," the woman says. "Anyone else would have done the same thing."

But because of the woman's heroics, Florence S. Orbach, of Silver Spring, avoided serious illness.

The woman is Florence's hairdresser. Florence visits her every Friday. Five days before a late-summer visit, Florence took a walk down her street. She felt something fall into her hair while she clomped along, but she says she didn't think anything of it.

As Florence was having her hair done, the hairdresser noticed "a red glow in the back of my head," Florence says. A tick was wriggling around on Florence's scalp.

The hairdresser carefully removed it, and Florence immediately visited her doctor. She tested positive for Lyme disease. However, because she had sought treatment so quickly, antibiotics took care of the disease. Florence has no lasting ill effects.

Lyme disease is carried and spread by deer ticks the size of poppy seeds. The disease was first identified in 1975. It is named for Lyme, Conn., a town in the eastern part of the state where the first case was reported.

In 1997, 16,461 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-one percent of them were reported in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Wisconsin. According to CDC figures, reported cases in the United States have increased by more than 3,200 percent since 1982.

The first sign of the disease is a round, red skin rash, followed quickly by headaches, swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches and pains. However, about 20 percent of those affected by the disease will show no symptoms.

The disease often progresses further than it might because victims brush off the symptoms, thinking that they just have the flu. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause chronic and disabling arthritis.

Florence Orbach has no idea how "her" tick found her -- a typical story told by Lyme disease victims. She lives near heavily wooded Brookside Gardens, and she has often spotted deer in her back yard. But she has never seen or been bitten by a tick before, she said.

William Sachau, a registered nurse at Georgetown University Hospital, said ticks don't necessarily lodge in hairier parts of the body. But if they do, it's more difficult to find them, he said.

The most popular spot for ticks to lodge is the legs, because that's the part of the body that comes in contact with high grass or bushes, William said. However, William said people need to be especially "vigilant" about checking for ticks in hair.

How to prevent ticks from "hitching a ride"? Doctors recommend wearing a hat and long pants, and tucking pant legs into socks. Light-colored clothing is useful, so it's easier to spot ticks (most are dark-colored). Insect repellents also help, according to the CDC.

If you discover a tick, remove it the same way you would a splinter, taking care to remove all arms and legs. Then wash the affected area with soap and water. Watch the area carefully over the next month in case a rash develops, doctors say. In any case, you are unlikely to get Lyme disease if a tick has been attached to your skin for less than 48 hours.

Lyme disease incidence tends to fall once summer disappears. Still, if you like autumn walks, wear a pair of long pants and a hat, even if the weather is warm. If you don't take such precautions, and you don't have an alert hairdresser, you might not be as lucky as Florence Orbach was.

As I read the letter from D.L. Clement, my taste buds kicked into gear. If you've ever tasted chicken-in-the-can, you never forget.

Chicken-in-the-can? Surely Levey has gone around the bend.

Well, maybe so. But before I get there, let me assure Brother Clement that chicken-in-the-can really existed, really was popular and really tasted good.

D.L., who lives in Culpeper, says a co-worker raised the subject the other day. The co-worker's father (who's evidently up in years) told her that he likes to go to a nearby store and buy chicken-in-the-can.

"Bob, I'm 52 years old and I've gone through a lot of cans in my time, but never heard of this one," D.L. writes. "What decade did a whole chicken come in a can?"

It was the decade of your birth (and mine), D.L. Supplies had to be put together for thousands of soldiers. Meats of all sorts were among the first foods to be canned.

I'm not going to tell you that every variety of canned meat would put a smile on your face. Spam was a big favorite during World War II. My mother used to serve it when I was a very young person. One bite was all it took to make little Robert's face curl up in a scowl.

Chicken-in-the-can, on the other hand, tasted delicate and subtle. Like all canned foods, it acquired a slightly metallic taste. But when chicken-in-the-can appeared on my boyhood table, it didn't take long for it to disappear.

Go back to that co-worker, D.L., and ask her to have her father buy you a couple of cans. Try them -- and then let me know if I'm blowing smoke. I promise I'm not.