Current isolation relatively benign

Dear Editor

Recently I read a short article about the 1918-20, incorrectly named, Spanish flu and decided to write about what happened to this family in 1918.

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In late summer, Everard and Winifred Pike moved into their new home. With their two children, they had been living in a wooden grain bin. (It's not likely one would see a couple start married life in a wooden grain bin now, even with an addition. However, I have read about farm families fancying up wooden grain bins for bed and breakfast customers, who think they're "cute.")

Everard and Winifred were happy to move into the spacious new home. They had many plans.

Then the crop froze.

Then news came about the influenza. Public gatherings were banned. Everard had not gone anywhere for weeks, except the short distinct twice a week to the post office run by his parents, yet he came down with the flu.

It was no problem for Winifred, a dairyman's daughter, to continue the milking, but I never asked who looked after other livestock such as the draft horses. I did get the impression he wasn't as ill as some people.

He was no sooner over it than the children became very ill. Worn out with looking after them, their mother became dangerously ill. The two children were taken by grandparents.

Winifred had an older sister just a mile way, but she had several children. Winifred's family lived five miles away in a cluster of homes. If a sister or sister-in-law were to leave one at a time to nurse Winifred, there were others to fill in to look after children.

Then their patent developed pleurisy and double pneumonia on top of the flu.

During all that time Dr. Moran of Lashburn travelled ceaselessly to check on his far-flung patients. He would hire a driver for a team of horses and closed-in cutter from the livery stable. He slept between farmsteads. What a small arsenal he had in those days to fight the terrible disease. I dare say it was good nursing which brought most patients through. In Winifred's case her mother-in-law said it was the onion poultices she insisted upon.

There was something that was a boon to the local community. In 1917, local landowners formed the Forest Bank Telephone Company. Everard was hired and he trained to be the lineman and secretary and he had overseen a crew to install the poles, cross arms and wire in an area nine miles by four miles, connecting to the central office in the village of Waseca. It took a lot of real horsepower and human muscle, and took in a many subscribers.

No one else in the area caught the flu. The self-isolated people would have made the most of the telephone. Of course, there was no electricity, no radio, no television, no hot or cold running water, no automatic washers and driers, no dishwashers, no Twitter, no tweet, no Skype, no tripe, no grocery deliveries to the door. And I bet no one spent the days in their pyjamas.

The bachelors could not expect to visit other homes for a meal prepared by the good cooks, nor could they happen to drop in for afternoon tea, nor call on pretty girls. The children did not expect to be entertained. They entertained themselves.

Dr. Moran had told Everard that as soon as Winifred was strong enough to travel he must get her to the Lashburn Hospital. The neighbour to the east took her in his little Ford, but on the way he hit a bump in the trail (yes trail, not road) and his frail passenger bounced up, hitting her head on the car roof. The doctor did not leave the hospital, and in the night a fat, healthy boy was born.

It had cost $20 for each trip made by Dr. Moran and it took a few years to pay the bill. Let no one deride medicare.

Dr. Moran said that of all the pregnant women in his area only two lived and the other one lost her baby. No one else in the vicinity became ill, not even anyone in Winifred's family.

I'm writing this on the day when we were reminded of something by the prime minister, the fellow whom a number of Canadians think can do nothing right, while a certain number think the quack doctor to the south of us can nothing wrong and that scares me.

The prime minister reminded us that it has been 75 years since Canadian troops, including the eldest son of Winifred and Everard, the little boy who survived the flu, liberated Holland where the Nazis were starving the people in a terrible version of isolation.

It was around that time Stalin of Russia sent soldiers into Ukraine to remove anything that could be eaten by the peasants of the area, then threw a cordon of soldiers around the area so no one could escape. The people died of starvation. They were in the way of Stalin's plans.

The Western world could finally help the Dutch but, even had they known, they could have done nothing for the Ukrainian people. Russia was an ally against the Nazi regime.

The peasants were isolated and dead.

There are many kinds of isolation. I think the one we are experiencing is benign.

Christine Pike


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