‘Never a dull moment’

by Vivian Lawson Hogue

It is normally our choice whether we want to be alone, quiet and unbothered.  If we get enough of it we go for a walk, run errands, visit a friend, work outside or enjoy a hobby.

In my youth, it was a natural thing for me to entertain myself. Toys were at a minimum, so a lively imagination helped. Today I hear both young and older speak of being “bored,” especially during the current home confinement recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Bored” was a word and concept not used or heard by most children my age. If I told my mother I didn’t have anything to do, as if that were HER problem, she would say, “Go outside, you’ll think of something.” She was usually right.

I would lie in the cool clover and make necklaces of blooms; I planted bulbs upside down and they grew anyway; I roller-skated and played hop-scotch on our wide front walk. We had wonderful sidewalk steps at our corner and I would sit on the top step and smile and wave at the occasional drivers and the riders in the city bus traveling College Avenue.  

My point is that in calm, unscheduled times, we can find worthwhile experiences. So let’s take this up to today’s confinement. I have cleaned house, done laundry, sharpened 300 colored pencils in hopes of having time to draw, and organized drawers. I set up the grow-light and planted seeds, did some writing, worked on genealogy, and photographed flowers. I watched raccoons and illegally roaming cats cross my porch, filled out a new address book, had a blood clot and laid out a 1,200-piece jigsaw puzzle. Granted, it can be difficult if one is an apartment dweller, but that’s when you “go outside and think of something.”

During this time of “social distancing” and handwashing, I’m reminded of one brother’s story about his first grade teacher taking all the boys to their restroom at certain times of the day, then the girls to theirs. She would not let them leave until they had washed their hands to her satisfaction. It seems like common sense, but children have to be taught about “bugs” brought on by poor hygiene and habits.  

There are seven types of human viruses. A few are in animals but can transfer to humans and then become human viruses. I remember the early-1950s Poliovirus, the 1957 Asian Flu, the 1968 Hong Kong Flu and the 2009 Swine Flu. Every flu event seems unusual, but the history of influenzas is long. In 412 B.C., Hippocrates described flu symptoms. The 1580 flu began in Asia, eventually causing 8,000 deaths in Rome. The 1729 flu began in Russia. The 1781 flu began in China. The 1830 flu also began in China, arriving in America in 1832. The first “modern flu” began in Russia in 1889. In fact, in the past 300 years, the points of origin were Russia, China and other parts of Asia.  Most sources involved swine and poultry, and today there could be other possibilities.

A widely distributed poster urging the public of ways to prevent the spread of the 1918 Spanish Flu.

I once wrote a piece for this space called, “As if war was not enough . . .” (501 LIFE, October 2017). It covered the 1918 Spanish Flu during which 50 million people died worldwide, including 675,000 in America. Our local Oak Grove Cemetery has a number of gravestones placed in 1918 and 1919. Others are not aware that ancestors survived or died from it. Despite living in a sparsely populated area of Arkansas, my father survived after four days of unconsciousness at about age 14. A younger sibling had survived two years earlier. The country doctor contracted it the day he visited my father in their log cabin home.  

Many in Arkansas do not realize our state’s connection to this pandemic. The belief of scientists is that the flu began in Haskell, Kansas, a rural area with many pig and poultry farms. A number of local men who had been training in large camps for World War I went home to Haskell before leaving for Europe.  Others went to another camp in Eastern Kansas. That March, one soldier became ill at the camp. A few hours later, 100 were sick. During the month, there were 1,000 cases and 50 had died.

With France and America already experiencing an earlier flu, it was troops who arrived in July 1918 from Arkansas’s Camp Pike (now Camp Robinson) who brought the Spanish flu into France upon disembarkation. Arkansas did not publish details until after the war. In Conway, Hendrix College had several cases. The Red Cross began producing gauze masks and delivering them to drug stores. Central College (now Central Baptist College) and the State Normal School (now University of Central Arkansas) also helped in mask production.

There are many observations being made about treatments for the current virus. Some people will drive while using cellphones, yet think it is dangerous to try using Hydroxychloroquine, a long-established drug, to treat the novel coronavirus cases. I was unfamiliar with it until I noticed the “quin” at the end. It seemed related to “quinine” to me, and sure enough it is one of the ingredients, used primitively since the 1600s and developed for malaria treatments in 1944. It was also one of the drugs used in an earlier form to treat the 1918 flu patients. Some weeks back, it occurred to me that perhaps the regular flu shots might have beneficial effects that have helped many by-pass the COVID-19. Time, research and science will tell.

I believe there are many good things that will come out of our present misery.  Maybe now we can see how being sanitary, working together, planning ahead and caring about other people can unite us.  

So . . . wash your hands! Pray for America! Hold friends and family close in your heart. Appreciate all of our “lifesavers!” And STOP the divisiveness that hinders recovery! We have an exceptional Republic to take care of. . . now, and when this plague is over.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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