All right folks, it’s storytime! Time to sit back for a moment and I will tell you a tale that will leave you all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes I am talking about our local plagues and diseases.
I find it interesting that whenever I spend a full day away from the Swamp, I breathe a lot easier. When I am here in the Swamp, I stay in a state of rather persistent sinus congestion. When I visit places in South Carolina, northern Georgia – even Mayport in Jacksonville, I actually can breathe significantly better. I am not the only one who has made this observation. My wife and both her teenagers have said the exact same thing here just recently.
That got me to thinking (a dangerous thing). You see, when I grew up in Charleston, I remember the story about how, in the 19th Century, Drayton Hall’s plantation house was saved. When the Federal army was “liberating” the locals of their worldly possessions late in the Civil War, they also had this tendency to burn whatever they could not carry off. This included the houses of the local land owners. The owners of Drayton Hall, who noticed their neighbor’s houses go up in flames one-by-one, decided to fly a flag in front of their house stating they were in quarantine due to an outbreak of small pox. Not wishing to risk a deeper investigation at some personal risk, the troops in blue marched on to Middleton Place Plantation next door where they proceeded to burn down the main house and dig up the family cemetery plots to look for buried valuables. The house that stands there today is merely the guest house and office – not the original dwelling.
Here in the Swamp during the 19th Century, they seemed to have this persistent problem with local plagues. Unlike Charleston, this port had no quarantine station. That was a problem. So any trans-Atlantic voyage that would create the inevitable sicknesses involved with humans living in close proximity with poor sanitation had no filter to keep these maladies away from the locals. Also, considering the eastern half of the Okefenokee Swamp drains into the St. Marys River, you honestly never could imagine what new horror of beast or pestilence would emerge from the fetid local waters. The local cemetery here bears witness to these plagues which included outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Malaria, Small pox and so much more. Think about that as you add in the features that the sand gnats and mosquitoes are horrific (as I have mentioned) and they used to slaughter cattle along the waterfront (again this is the 19th Century) before shipping off the “fresh” beef to the West Indies.
Bearing all of this in mind, I was thinking the other day that maybe I should set a “plague flag” in front of the house. Although it would not be false advertising, I am sure the locals might take umbrage to a Hazmat symbol hanging from a flagpole in the front of my house. I do know the missionaries sent to my part of the woods from a variety of the not-so-local churches do not visit my house anymore. I wonder if it was due to the time I chatted with them on my front porch during the Spring when the bugs were at their worst? I figured if they wanted to chat, I am sure the local bugs would appreciate the blood contribution. After all, I am used to being chewed alive when I am outside. I think back to that moment and believe that those Utah residents may not want to visit Georgia ever again after that evening.
So some, twenty years ago when I moved here, I once possessed a fairly keen sense of smell. Not so much these days. I have spoke with my personal physician and they have prescribed me a variety of medications that “might” help. They don’t. But maybe this is not such a bad thing because as they continue work on the local sewers (don’t get me started about that debacle), it does not seem to bother me as much as the other folks – even the nasty smells that flood the main intersection of Georgia Highway 40 at Spur 40 near the middle school. The locals know the one I am talking about.
Such is life here in the Swamp.
And you wonder why the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is located in Goergia? Well away from the Swamp!?