IT IS DIFFICULT

to adjust to a “world on hold,” especially if you are a columnist who tries to explore all avenues to come up with fresh material.

There is no “fresh material” out there right now. All the avenues are blocked off. The coronavirus and our response to it dominate almost every facet of our lives.

Everything is shut down—churches, businesses and recreational facilities. Ordinarily I would be writing columns about baseball or the NCAA basketball tournament right now, but baseball has been cancelled and March Madness has turned into corona madness.

Like most people, I try to stay home as much as possible, but once a day I feel the need to get out and at least ride around. Today I went to the farm supply store and bought a roll of small wire to protect my cabbage from the rabbits.

Ordinarily that would be a stop on the way home from lunch. Under present conditions, it is a big deal, a chance to at least get out and see people.

If it was later in the year, those of us with lawns could be out in the sunshine mowing. I despise mowing the lawn, but it is better than just sitting around the house.

There’s not any garden work to be done until the weather warms and I’ve already got all my spring plowing done.

I have a friend who rushed to the public library an hour before it closed and took out all the books she could carry. Not being a reader, books are not a good way for me to pass the time.

Those I talk to and converse with on Facebook are also bored out of their gourd. If you watch TV, you will become a witness in the court of world opinion that charges that the boob tube is 1,000 channels of nothing.

I suppose, however, we are better off than those who rode out the 1918 influenza outbreak. When writing my novel, “Jesse,” set in that era, I interviewed more than a dozen people who lived through that pandemic and they had neither radio nor television to help them pass the time.

Worse yet, much of that epidemic occurred during one of the worst winters on record in these parts. It was bitterly cold with several bouts of freezing rain. One man told me he was about 12 and delivering groceries for a food store at the time and had to use his sled to carry food to customers. The ice was so bad at times, he said, that he had to drive short nails through an old pair of shoes for traction.

There were few hospitals anywhere around in those days, especially in rural communities. You were on your own if you got sick. But then I heard a doctor on the news the other night practically say we should not go near anyone sick with the coronavirus. I guess we’re still pretty much on our own.

To some degree, farm work (practically everybody had a cow and chickens in 1918) was a distraction during that pandemic, but sick people going out in the freezing weather to attend to livestock also likely led to cases of pneumonia.

This is a tough year for high school seniors. No spring sports, no prom, no graduation. A decade down the road, they will feel robbed. Kids, used to daily social activity, are also finding it tough to stay home and do nothing.

The weather won’t even cooperate. Clouds, rain and chilly temperatures seem to dominate, so it is difficult to even get outside. But then that’s better than the folks in the winter of 1918–19 had it.

The worst part of this whole mess is that we have no idea when the quarantine will end. Some say weeks; others months. President Trump said the other night that we might start getting back to normal by Easter, but I wouldn’t bet my 401k on it.

Some claim there is a silver lining in all this. They are sure that when this all ends everyone will appreciate what they have even more.

That’s probably true—for about 10 minutes. Then we’ll go back to the crazy life we had before the pandemic reached our shores. Remember that those who suffered in 1918–19 went wild during the Roaring Twenties. After all, this is America.

If you think this column is doom and gloom, just watch TV for an hour or so. To the media, the end of the world is almost at hand.

One woman being interviewed suggested that while in quarantine we might turn to music. So, while watching the news, I got out my old guitar and tried to write a new song. The only thing I could come up with was “Sittin’ around Waitin’ to Die.”

Maybe I’ll videotape it and put it on Facebook—just to cheer everyone up!

Donnie Johnston:

djohn40330@aol.com

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