For new subscribers, you’ll interested to know the theme of this blog examines CHANGE. Sprinkling our life-adaptations with humor makes them easier to swallow or at least…creates some head-smacking moments of epiphany.
I’ve discovered, looking at the past, puts a high-powered microscope on the changes in the present. About once a month, Before Morning Breaks, travels back to an 1871 Oregon pioneer settlement named Two Pan. Whores, mercantile men, and miners mix with settlers trying to “prove-up” their free land.
The goings-on of Two Pan are inspired by real-life journals. If you’d like to catch up on their humor and hardships, click Weekly Gossip on the Two Pan tab above. I’ve known for a year this post was coming, but when it came time to write it…I kept putting it off.
To my long-kind subscribers, who’ve e’d me with requests, “We haven’t heard from Two Pan lately.”…thanks for the nudge. There’s not a speck of humor in the following missive Violet Spinrad sends to her sister in Nebraska. Not even a light side…
…it’s the post I’ve dreaded to write.
September 10, 1871
I barely have the will to put pen to paper. My heart bleeds and will surely stop beating. A man rode by the homestead, hell bent for leather, telling us the Indians were angry about the broken treaty. What with Bricker dead, he urged us to move to the stockade. I didn’t tell him Bricker would’ve been drunk, and I would’ve gladly given him to the Indians if he were alive. We weren’t leaving our land. Me and the 6 kids carved dug outs in the hard earth to hide in. Nothing came of the scare…another enemy attacked instead.
McAllister, our oldest came down with diphtheria. I gave him nettle tea and that seemed to help, but Maggie started coughing two days later, and Jedidiah had the croup the next day. We covered our mouths with kerchiefs, but in the following week, the two 10-year-olds, Sophie and Rowen, had skin of a bluish color and they broke out in lesions.
Maggie and Jedidiah were the first to pass. They endured the strangulation disease 5 days. Mag’s thirteen-year-old heart stopped in the morning and Jed, who was a year younger, died that evening.
Oh, sis. I keep staring at my hands. No matter how many elixirs and poultices I made, no healing came through these fingers. Sophie lasted 5 days. McAllister buried her in one of the dug outs, then layed down in the next hole and died. He had lasted 21 days, I suppose because he was the oldest and strongest.
We’d all been happy that our youngest, little Lizzie, had escaped the pestilence, but when I checked her mouth, I saw those black-gray fibers of death growing up her throat. She lasted two days.
Henry Woolsey came over to look in on us. He said the doctor told him to smoke twist tobacco and fumigate his house by burning sulfur. I don’t think it worked. Although he wasn’t sick, the disease had taken his wife, child, and the school teacher that was rooming with them. Most of the children of the valley have died.
In the last three weeks, I have lost all my children but one. Henry asked me, “Where will you go now?”
“I will stay here.” The cost for this journey to a new life and new land has been too high to abandon it now.
I will leave more of a mark on this land than 5 graves. I will remain here.
NOTE: Today in the U.S., there are about 5 diphtheria cases per year. Even with anti-toxin and meds, the death rate is 10% and recovery is slow. Since 1990, diphtheria has made a spectacular comeback in several European countries, with a high proportion of cases in adults. Protective immunity lasts only 10 years from the time of vaccination, so it’s important for adults to get a booster of tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years. (PubMed Health)
Change…Someday…we may wipe out this preventable disease.
Photo by taborcarlton
Photo Parody by Smosh