From Pipi’s Pasture: Flu season on the ranch |

From Pipi’s Pasture: Flu season on the ranch

Diane Prather
Diane Prather

With all the colds, flu and other stuff going around right now, my brother, Duane (Osborn), and I have been trying to remember if people talked about a flu season when we were kids growing up on the ranch. We’ve been trying to remember how often we were sick any time of the year.

If so, what kinds of medication did we take? Did we end up in bed? I even called our sister, Charlotte (Allum), in Fort Collins to find out what she remembers. One thing is for sure — our memories about all of this are pretty hazy.

We always joked that we spent so much time around cows, horses, and sheep, which aren’t the cleanest of animals, that no germs would want to associate with us. I don’t know what the medical reason behind that might be, but sometimes it seems to me to be true. I seem to have a pretty healthy adult lifestyle while caring for the cows here at Pipi’s Pasture.

Anyway, our ranch was about 23 miles from Craig, but it might as well have been 100 miles; it didn’t matter because we didn’t go to Craig that much when we were kids. For one thing, our vehicles weren’t always reliable, and for another, the roads were often blocked with snow during the winters. So we stayed at home, which reduced our chances of being exposed to diseases.

That’s why we didn’t contract the childhood diseases, such as chicken pox, mumps and measles, until we were in high school in Craig when we were around lots of other people. I can remember coming down with chicken pox a day or so before I was to attend Girls’ State. I must have been in 10th grade, and being chosen as a delegate was an honor so getting sick was a blow.

I got the mumps when I was in high school and measles, too. I remember that our Uncle Bill (Osborn) who lived over the hill from us came down with mumps as an adult, probably brought home by his kids.

Dad and Mom were good about making sure that we had regular check-ups and immunizations. The problem was that some of the immunizations that we take for granted today just weren’t available then. That went for medications, too.

I do remember the flu. One year, when I was probably about 10, I came down with the flu. I’m not sure where I got it. Charlotte remembers that I had it, too, but apparently I was the only one in the family that did or the rest of the family had lighter cases. The worst part of it was an earache so I recall having to go to bed so that I could put my ear on a hot water bottle. I can almost hear Mom coming up the stairs now, to check on me, put warmed-up eardrops in my ear and to refill my hot water bottle. The ear infection was so severe that my ear drained. I think it might be that my eardrum ruptured.

During those years, the medication consisted of a fairly large pink pill that Mom referred to as a “fever pill.” They tasted terrible, and when I grew up I had to endure listening to stories about how Mom and Dad couldn’t get me to swallow the fever pill. They had to go so far as to crush up the pill and put it in a banana or other food so that I would take it. In later years, the doctor prescribed a sulfa pill for my flu (which seemed to come back each year about the same time), and it was then that I learned I am allergic to the drug. Tears streamed down my face after taking it.

I also vaguely remember our country school being shut down for a period of time in the winter because the teacher and perhaps some of the students (me included) were ill. Some years, there might have been less than 10 kids in the school, so closing it down probably made sense.

It was a time when we didn’t know about hand sanitizers or washing our hands frequently. We didn’t have many antibiotics. How times have changed.

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