Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 8

Alone Together

There’s nothing like a time of crisis to drive people apart. Think of what happened to Canada’s German and Japanese citizens in World War 2, or eastern Europeans during World War 1. We declared them public enemies, confiscated their property and shuffled them off into internment camps. Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 8”

Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 7

Travel Trailer vs. House

We just spent about 4-1/2 months in a 35′ travel trailer, mostly plunked down in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. Now that we are back in our 3500 sq. ft. home, we are noticing significant differences between living in a trailer and living in a house. Like, for instance:

1. In a trailer, everything is at hand. In a house, it’s a case of “Honey, where’s the . . . ?” Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 7”

Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 5

Are those young people really COVIDIOTS?

We’ve seen the pictures: hordes of young people congregating in parks, on beaches and at other areas in spite of all the recommendations that everyone self-isolate, congregate only in small groups (fewer than 10 people) and maintain a 2 meter (6 foot) distance. Political leaders are among those who are outraged at this apparently ignorant, up-yours attitude of so many people, and they are now implementing some draconian regulations.

We took the “self-isolating” (a.k.a. quarantine) message seriously. Why did so many, especially young people, ignore it? Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 5”

Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 3

Who are these wackos (Part 1)?

Did you hear the one about the guy who thinks the 5G network is the source of coronavirus?

I’m not making this up!  Dr. Thomas Cowan (a “holistic” doctor who, by the way, is on disciplinary probation) posted a video claiming that viruses are merely the waste from cells that have been poisoned. Are you surprised to learn he lives in California? Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 3”

Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 2

I’m bummed out.

While everyone is concerned about contracting the NOVEL coronavirus, I get the COMMON cold.

Not that I’m complaining. Far from it. It could be worse. I could have COVID-19. I could be in the hospital on a respirator. I could be in the hospital hoping the doctors can find a respirator to put me on. Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 2”

Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 1

We arrived home yesterday from Mexico via the USA, scampering northward as fast as we could before borders were completely shut. Soon after we walked in the house, a neighbour knocked on the door then backed half-way down the walk. She offered to get groceries, medication, anything we needed for us while we are in quarantine. How gracious and neighbourly of someone we barely know. Continue reading “Notes from the Isolation Ward, Day 1”


Self-isolation. Social distancing. Public gatherings cancelled. Travel restrictions. Borders closed.

Coronavirus 2020, right?

Wrong. The so-called “Spanish” Flu, 1918.

The influenza pandemic of 1918, like the 2009 “swine” flu, was a version of H1N1. The 1918 version was particularly lethal. It infected approximately 500 million people, or a third of the world’s population, and killed an estimated 50 million people, a death rate yet to be matched by any pandemic. Unlike other influenzas, it struck people in the prime of their lives – 15 to 35 years of age – particularly severely, although it also attacked the young and the elderly.

There are striking similarities between the 1918 flu and COVID-19. Both began as rumours of a new strange illness; only slowly did the world become aware of its seriousness and how quickly it could spread. Then, panic ensued. The medical system was quickly overwhelmed. It didn’t help that doctors and nurses contracted the illness and died. Public gatherings were cancelled. The dead were buried without funerals. Businesses shut down because the staff were ill. Towns closed their borders; public transit was avoided. There were no airplanes, but train stations closed, and trains disinfected their cars.

Quarantine, or self-isolation, was only sure way to limit the spread of the disease. Today, we are unfamiliar with the practice, both psychologically and physically. A hundred years ago, even 60 years ago when I was a child, quarantine was common. It was an inconvenience but everyone knew it was the only way to control communicable diseases. And there were many: smallpox, chicken pox, whooping cough, measles, rubella, scarlet fever, mumps, diphtheria and polio. Except for smallpox, there was no vaccine to create “herd immunity;” that was accomplished solely by the illness sweeping through the community (or country) and leaving behind survivors who were now immune to the next wave of that particular illness.

Families may have been quarantined but they were far from isolated. Telephones and mail kept people connected and informed. They hunkered down in their homes while friends and neighbours checked in to see how they were doing, brought them groceries and mail, and did their chores.

My grandparents lived through the 1918 epidemic. These are the entries in Abe’s diary:

Sunday, October 27: Sabbath School and Service cancelled on account of influenza.
Friday, November 1: R. Sibbery arrived in pm, stayed for supper then left to stay at hotel as he had contracted influenza. [Did Abe and Addie wonder if they were now infected?]
Thursday, November 7: Ed Wright [neighbour] sick with flu. Was innoculated with anti-flu serum in evening.
Tuesday, November 12: Called at W. Graham’s in pm. W. Graham and two children sick with flu.
Friday, November 15: Children taken sick with flu overnight. [Imagine the panic Abe and Addie must have felt to see Edith and Bert fall ill.]
Sunday, November 17: Children no better. Called Dr. Donnelly overnight. [Now they were really worried.]
Monday, November 18: Children improving. [Relief, I’m sure]

The Meyronne Independent kept everyone informed as to the progress of the disease; November 6 seemed to be the height of the infection in the district:

“Spanish influenza is still raging in Meyronne and district. Many of the sufferers have recovered while many more have contracted the disease within the past week. . .There are about twenty patients in the Meyronne hotel which has been converted into an emergency hospital.”

“The school is closed this week. . . Station agent Howell is back at this post after his illness. His wife and family and George Jordan have all recovered.”

“Mike Forzley of Milly was brought to town Wednesday suffering with influenza. He was found out of doors, only partly clothed and in a delirious condition.”

“Every member of the Bank of Toronto staff has been ill. Those who first went down with it recovered sufficiently to step in and take hold of the work when the others became ill.”

“A.F. Haddad has recovered from his attack and is back at work. Lowie Saba has also recovered, but the other clerk, Miss Anne Havorka is now down with the disease. None of the Haddad store staff escaped the epidemic.”

“Mrs. Phil Stapleton died at her home north of Meyronne on Saturday, Nov. 2, of influenza and heart disease.”

There was still room for humour (laughter is the best medicine, after all):

“No small number of “safety-firsters” took up their daily allotment of “preventative” when the ban was lifted.” [This was during Prohibition when alcohol was not for sale under any circumstance, but alcohol “for medicinal purposes only” {yeah, sure!} was allowed during the epidemic.]

(Addie relates the 1918 epidemic in Chapter 17 of “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead)


#Influenza #H1N1Virus #CORVID-19 #SelfIsolation #MeyronneHistory #SpanishFlu #PrairieHistory #HannaFamilyHistory #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown #Quarantine

Going Hog Wild . . .

. . . And That’s No Bull!


Grandpa Hanna (and later my Dad, Garnet) did what prairie farmers can no longer do – operate a mixed farm. In addition to growing grain (wheat, oats, barley, and flax, and later rapeseed now called canola), they raised a few head of milk and beef cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys – some to eat and some to sell for quick cash when the price of wheat was low or the grain cheque had yet to arrive. However, from time to time, livestock provided more than income.


The four words that farmers dread the most? – Your cows are out! While out, they wandered everywhere, including into town. The village of Meyronne passed a bylaw in 1921 stating that horses and cattle were not allowed to run at large between May 1 and November 15, otherwise there’d be fines to pay. Council forgot to tell the livestock about the bylaw. The Meyronne Independent printed jabs such as “Do you, reader, own any of the livestock that parades up and down, in and out of Meyronne’s streets every week?” The editor obviously forgot that livestock can’t read.

Abe had to pay those fines several times, and sometimes even compensate neighbouring farmers. He paid Mr. Barber $20.00 for damages done by cattle while he, Addie and the family were visiting in Alberta. One Sunday morning, Abe had to retrieve the bull that had wandered into town. That incident inspired me to write my grandparents’ story, “Our Bull’s Loose In Town!” Tales from the Homestead. Escapades did not always end well. Cherry, the cow, got stuck in the mud in the pasture on the Flat. Abe hauled her back to the farm on the stone boat but the next day she caught pneumonia and died.

Abe’s cattle weren’t the only ones to go astray. One morning, Abe found six strange cattle wandering about the farm yard; a few phone calls soon determined whose they were and the red-faced owners quickly retrieved them. Another time, he found a yearling Holstein bull in the yard; Abe took it to the pound for the owner to liberate.

Abe references a few cows by name – Lily, Cherry, Emma, Davidson, Blue, Whiteface and Broncho. The female names lead me to suspect those were mostly Holsteins, large rangy milk cows that, every morning, lumbered up from the pasture to the barn and stood there, bellowing, “Mo-o-o-ilk me! Mo-o-o-ilk me!” Those bellows have a particularly urgent timber to them – there’s no sleeping in when a cow’s needing milked.

Cows, like horses (see last week’s post) needed doctoring, and the diaries contain many references to sick cattle. Dr. Houze was called in only if a dose of aloes and Miracle Wonder (whatever that was) didn’t cure the ailing beast. Not every cow survived. Broncho got very ill after being fed a small amount of feed sorghum one afternoon. Two hours later, Broncho died. Abe suspected the sorghum had been treated with something that poisoned the cow.

Abe didn’t give names to his pigs but I’m willing to bet he called them choice names whenever they escaped. Pigs, being canny, often escaped. Seventeen hogs got out one day and wandered into the village – were they wanting to have words with the butcher, we wonder? Abe had to pay to get them out of the pound. Another pig went on a cross-country adventure on its own; Abe found it two days later at a farm about three miles away. Several piglets once scampered into the school yard just south of the farm — at recess time! — and engendered no end of mayhem. Perhaps they thought the big bad wolf was after them and they would be safe in the red brick school house.

And then there was the Pigs-in-the-Garden incident in the first year of my parents’ marriage. The fence around the pig pen was in need of repair. “Fix the fence,” Mom said on several occasions. “Yes, dear,” my father replied, on as many occasions.

Mom was particularly proud of her garden that summer. She had managed to grow cantaloups and watermelons, no small feat in southwestern Saskatchewan; the gladiolas and dahlias were in full glorious bloom. So imagine her fury when she came home from town to find the pigs wrecking havoc in her garden.

“It wouldn’t have been so bad if they had eaten only one watermelon,” she’d say every time she told the story. But no, the pigs had gone down the row and taken a bite out of each and every watermelon, each and every cantaloup. They had uprooted and munched on every dahlia and gladiola corm.

Mom hit the roof. Dad fixed the fence. The pigs never got out again.


#AnimalStories #HannaFamilyHistory #SaskatchewanHistory #FarmLife #MeyronneHistory #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown #BWLPublishing #Humour #NonFiction