Influenza Continues to Take Toll in Area

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

With exclusion of visitors from area care residences and jobs, school children plus staff missing days of work and scholastics, the nasty bug has many area folks feeling beyond uncomfortable. In that the occupants of Frances, the rollicking Ford Focus have gone unscathed thus far, (knock on bricks) one wonders how our eighty three year old peers and pioneers before them escaped the ‘sickle.’ Add to that factor, what did our predecessors on the land, the Native Americans, do to escape the ‘beast’ in winter? Fact of the matter is, they didn’t…escape illness and death, especially during the waning days of winter and before spring arrived. Bodies were often malnourished, and some people perished. On both sides of our families, aunts and uncles became part of the earth at early ages.

Today, one is dumbfounded by the number of medicines on the market for every ache, pain and misadventure that might come along. Perusing the research, one discovers two plants which seemed to be effective in olden times, both for the native and neo-native occupants of the land. Both cures were plant based, ‘boneset’ and ‘cayenne pepper.’ Boneset was (is) used to treat influenza, bronchitis, rheumatism and pneumonia…as it causes sweating and reduces fever. "Gonna chase that 'bug' right out-ta my house!" It is sold over the counter today.

Cayenne pepper on the other hand was used to treat colds and congestion, increase the amount of heat the body gives off…burns more calories. “Starve a cold, fuel a fever."
Both of the afore mentioned treatments MAY have ‘side effects.’ Have you heard THAT term before?

Which brings us to Aunt Irene. Irene was “Aunt Irene” to hundreds of people. Her cooking drew raves for so many LeSueur inhabitants that she started her own store, “Hilltop Grocery” on Fourth Street. After she passed away in her kitchen at age 93, her cookbook yielded rave reviews for those able to obtain recipes. We bring the subject up, as in that Recipe Bible was a concoction for cold medicine. (We’ve published this before, and do NOT recommend it, due to one of the bizarre ingredients.)

Irene wrote, “Dissolve one ten cent stick of licorice in the juice of three lemons and one pint of honey.” (Lots of honey and bees around pre-1900.) “Add one cup of boiling water and cool for twenty minutes. Add one teaspoon chloroform. “ Yes, that chemical could legally be purchased in a hundred years back. Today it’s banned in drugs, cosmetics, and food products. “When cool, bottle. Take one tablespoon every hour or oftener.” Side effects: respiratory failure and heart attacks. Irene had a garden ‘out-back’ that fed members of her family and the neighborhood. Although no longer physically present, her reputation for fine cooking and generosity were her inheritance to many to this very day.

Irene was first on her block to spot robins in springtime. Today, she would be amazed at the robin roost in LeSueur. Some will remember the robin population swelling to a high of 3,000 plus in late January of 2019. Returning with Frances to that roost this last week, the first dank evening produced a disappointing 35; the second trip at dusk, 91; the third evening a plus 300 at 4:15; and January 26th, a disappointing 75 or so…but…the ‘counters’ were late. The orange breasted birds arrive out of the north and west, gaze about as though assessing the situation, then dive for the coniferous trees at their roosting spot. The honorable Frances, never known to exaggerate, will testify to the numbers above.

Speaking of robins, if you value your cats, poultry and small children, keep them under lock and key. Great-horned owls, barred owls and eagles are especially hungry due to snow cover. A right-off-a-hot wire report January 26th is that poultry enjoying the mild out-of-doors are being pillaged from the air, and it’s not drones that are doing the dastardly deed. A good friend recently lost turkeys, a fine goose, ducks, and a young peacock to strangers from the air! In addition, deer have begun to gather in herds, meager gleaning is a fact. Twenty-six white-tails were observed in one deer herd late January 25th. Don’t believe it? Take a drive at dusk most any direction whence trees/ravines meet fields. You will be surprised with what you observe. Careful though, where one deer crosses a road in front of you, others will attempt to sail over your vehicle as well. Just ask Frances the fabulous Ford!