Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Perspective of Winter Ills

I have been remiss in my postings due to some winter bug I picked up, likely from the children.

Being sick with a fever and chills when the temperature is in the single digits is no fun, especially when one still has the daily duties to accomplish. Fortunately, Wolf was a trooper yesterday, helping out with Bear and had only one lapse in judgment when he dialed up his old friend in South Carolina without asking. At least he didn't dial up our friends in England.

Noticing how much more difficult even routine tasks are when ill made me think about some of my past clients' lives in Alaska before too many physicians, antibiotics, and other helps were available.

One woman, a tough little lady even now, at age 88, was born in a remote homestead cabin down in Kenai to parents who shot or grew everything the family ate. Not a problem in the summer. But in the winter, the family, out of fresh vegetables (rarely any other fruit than berries) relied on beans, bread, bacon, or whatever else they could stock up on infrequent trips to town.

If someone got sick, she said, Mother got out the natural remedies from the Native women in the area. Herbs were used for fevers, as salves, boiled with honey for coughs, and people relied on them if they did not have money for the "cures" sold at the store. But no antibiotics for strep throat or ear infections, or for even worse afflictions like diptheria or whooping cough, which could spread by visitors to the cabin.

If mom or dad got sick, chores still had to be completed. I found out real quick this morning that if the snow is not shoveled, it is nearly impossible to catch up after a time, as it packs like cement. Likewise with the wood stove. Who will stoke it if I don't?

Our family has developed a healthy respect for these homesteaders. Many of them have proclaimed to me that they really were pretty healthy most of the time; an abundance of fresh air and good food in the summer seemed to keep their immune systems working. Plus, many have said, Alaska was so sparse as far as population was concerned, that one did not see too many other people and thus did not spread illness like we do now.

Oh yeah, and the Cod Liver Oil. How could I forget that? Those of you who were force fed this concoction as children are screwing up your faces right now, aren't you?

No comments: