From Pandemic to Fallen Feathers and Back Again

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Should you be lucky enough to be a ‘newbie’ to Henderson and are at all interested in the history of this small city, Henderson Then and Now, 1852 –,1994 is a book one might wish to add to one’s library. The historians responsible for this comprehensive work need to be RE-commended on the wonderful treatise. The material which they’ve nurtured and carefully gathered is without price. You may find the names/photos of the editors and advisors of the book in the forward to the tome, pgs III and IV.

Many have asked, “Was this area, Henderson and environs, ever struck by epidemic illnesses in the past?” If a reader turns to pages 278 – 285 in the “Blue Bible,” the quest will be answered.

One of the most famous of the physicians who served the Henderson area was Dr. Joseph Duclos, (1899 – 1939,) passing in 1946. Notes gathered by historian Arlene Busse from the December 20th, 1918 issue of the newspaper at the time indicate: “There are indications that the disease has run its course and is subsiding, and we should be grateful for that.” And, “Dr. Duclos worked early and late last week, when cases of the influenza became numerous. He secured a trained nurse through the state board of health and thus was relieved to some extent, but it was a hard strain on him, and he deserves credit for the manner in which he handled the cases. During the epidemic, boys drove him to visit his patients. One day he went north, the next day south. During the winter he traveled by horse and buggy on roads not plowed. He slept in the buggy between calls.”

The article goes on to say, “Every person in town should read the health rules published by the City Council elsewhere in this paper. And it is the duty of every citizen to assist in the movement to stamp out this dread disease. Many people will visit Henderson during the holidays,” (that being Christmas,) “and for that reason all are warned to be careful not to spread the disease further.” End of quote.

A person we respect and admire very much gave us this advice today: “It is important now that we can focus on what has been our interests-a relief from all the bad news.” In our case, he was referring to ‘the birds.’ And thus, we shall. According to The Cornell Lab’s “Backyard Bird Count,” in which we participated during February along with 268,674 others across the United States, the northern cardinal was at the top of the list of most sighted feathered creatures. Then came the dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, blue jay, house sparrow, house finch, American crow, black-capped chickadee, and red-bellied woodpecker. Ney Christmas Bird Count participants, take heed!!! How very similar to YOUR count! Congratulations!!!

Once upon a time, when the world was young… up until October, 2019 to be exact, our trailer stood on the banks of the Minnesota River. For twenty-nine years we kept notebooks of phenomenon occurring outside the windows of our domain. Most of those notes prior to 2005 were destroyed by burglars, but we have in front of us this day the careful scribbles of March 17th, 2005. There was a dearth of birds that day with the exception of hundreds of brazen barking Canada geese! Twenty-one other species of birds were observed

At 2:40 that memorable day, a RED-SHAFTED flicker appeared, its scarlet shafts taking the place of the yellow of the yellow-shafted flicker. Flying against the sun, it was a spiritual sight. Each day for four days the precious bird appeared, and then, it was gone, never to be experienced again! Somewhere in our cavern of curiosities we have photos, but they have taken flight recently. Incidentally, on that date, the Minnesota River was low, sparkling and blue-green, with eight inches of snow following three days later!

Speaking of bird plumes. Vern Bienfang of exotic birds and waterfowl fame, shared a mystery with us that we absolutely, positively can’t explain, even after diligent research. Vern stewards peacocks, among other species of birds, and as everyone knows, male birds trot out their very best suits in March and April, ‘the better to impress you, my dear.’ When mating season for peacocks arrives in May, this handsome harbinger of spring could be down to his short under-feathers! You see, for over two weeks, the bird has been losing its feathers! What is a peacock to do without gorgeous apparel? Vern brought to us a bundle, forty to be exact, a regular armful of peacock plumes. What a pitiful plight and sight as the bird drags across the lawn missing its pride and joy! Theories from readers always welcome!

March 19h will reveal itself to us the vernal equinox, the first day of SPRING. Makes one ponder, where will our lives be next year on this day? A sincere and pleasant St. Paddy’s Day to our readers!!!