By Ray Knapp
My grandmother died in the flu pandemic of 1918/1919. Maybe one of your relatives died also as an estimated 675,000 deaths occurred across the United States during that flu season, and 50 million worldwide. I recall listening to the old-timers up in Flag Pond telling stories of whole families being too sick to care for one another, and relied on friends and neighbors to care for them. Many people died around here that flu season.
The CDC has officially said this is a flu epidemic and many cases are happening in all 50 states along with several deaths. My wife, Frances, and I were part of Tennessee’s flu statistics earlier this month though both of us made it through without serious complications – thanks in part to a super vaccination with four times the regular strength given to those 65 and older. With the flu season predicted to last until May, the CDC states you should avoid people who are ill, and practice good hygiene such as washing your hands often and covering your cough. If you are sick, stay home.
I recall having the flu more than once when I was a youngster. There was no standardized flu shot, as far as I know, and the flu was very serious. The flu shots of today lessen its severity somewhat, but the CDC states you could be contagious up to seven days after your fever subsides. Therefore, when we got it, we limited our exposure to short trips to the store. I was a little surprised to see quite a few people at stores wisely wearing these surgical type masks.
Having this “home time” on my hands, and tired of watching Matt Dillon reruns, I found myself reminiscing about things in my past and thinking of many little things; adventures, or maybe those times when I was real sick. I’m sure most everyone has similar memories.
For instance: We lived on a farm back in my early school years. The farm had a fair sized creek running across the lower field. It was contained by steep banks on both sides that worked something like a funnel. During and after heavy rainstorms the water rose rapidly and fairly zipped along. Dad had cleared brush along the creek bank in early spring and left it lying to dry and burn later.
After one heavy rain, my little brother and I were throwing limbs in the creek. We watched spellbound at how fast they sailed downstream. My little brother, Fred, about 5, managed to get a whole bush and toss it in. A limb snagged the front bib of his overalls, and in he went – right on top of the bush. I grabbed a long limb, one which dad had chopped most of a smaller limb off near the end. That made a perfect hook. With it, I snagged the back of his overalls and managed to fish him out.
I don’t recall Fred giving me any thanks for saving him from the swift water, but I do recall a spanking for playing in the flooded creek. I could see Fred smiling through fake tears as Mom laid it to me. “That child could have drowned and will likely catch a death of cold from being soaked in that cold water,” she said, taking him in her arms.
The flu was rampant at school, so it wasn’t as if fate was punishing me as well, but I came down with a high fever, chills and vomiting, just a day or two later. Mom was convinced; I didn’t catch it at school, but from the dirty creek water. She quarantined me in our own house. That case of flu took a couple of weeks to get over and left me weak as a kitten.
I’m happy to report that Frances and I are doing better and I’m ready to celebrate my birthday on the 25th, a place where there is no flu – like a Caribbean island with warm sandy beaches. If you have a better suggestion, give me a call.