Every so often, a news story just grabs you and runs through your head like an ear worm. (If you don't know what an ear worm is, that is one of those inane songs you can't stop humming until your brain rots. Sandy, a colleague of mine at Enema U, claims to possess the perfect cure for ear worms—she is adamant that singing The Girl From Ipanema will work like antivenin. This doesn't explain why she started screaming when I began singing the old Doris Day theme song, Que Sera', Sera'.)
The news story that caught my attention was the story about the West Nile Virus in Dallas. From the news, this is the biggest disaster to hit Dallas since November, 1963. Personally, I think the town is overreacting to a rather mild problem. While I don't want to catch West Nile, Dallas has gone a little nuts. West Nile won’t kill half the people this year that will pile up in deadly car crashes trying to negotiate a screwed up freeway system that has been under construction since my father built highways for the CCC.
My Dad always told me to be careful about Dallas---he said it was full of Yankees and Wanna-be-Texans. According to him, if Fort Worth was where the West begins, then, by definition, Dallas is where the East peters out.
First of all, West Nile is not exactly Ebola. The flu kills a lot more people every year than West Nile; over 80% of the people who catch the disease never even know they have it. Most of the rest have relatively mild, flu-like symptoms. While even one death is too many, this still doesn't explain the reaction in Dallas. A problem does not sell newspapers or grab our attention on the evening news, but a panic will.
Dallas County has decided to use crop dusters to spray the suburbs with insecticide. I have this sneaky feeling that the spray may be more of a problem than the mosquitoes. I can confidently say this for two reasons: First, I wouldn't trust the officials of Dallas with anything more deadly than a potato gun. Second, insecticide is only effective against adult mosquitoes. If you want to stop the spread of the disease, you need to kill the larvae.
And it seems that Dallas is having a little problem with the spraying. They have sprayed some neighborhoods without warning, missed others, and worst of all...the devil has interfered with the weather. Clay Jenkins, a Dallas County judge, recently told reporters, "I am asking all faith-based communities to please pray for no rain and light winds from 8:30 to 1 Sunday." Evidently, God runs the weather (when the devil doesn't interfere) like a Swiss train. Still, I can't help wondering why the judge doesn't just ask the faith-based community to pray for God to stop the epidemic.
When exactly did Dallas become a "faith-based community"? Was it before or after the Caddo Indians were forcibly moved out of North Texas? Was it just before the Civil War, when a fire broke out in the community of 700 and was blamed on the roughly 100 slaves--three of whom were lynched and the rest whipped? The Klan showed up almost immediately after the war--did the night riders bring faith with them? I could go on, but if you are looking for the golden age of enlightenment for Dallas--it hasn't happened yet. As far as I am concerned, if God were going to give Texas an enema, he should shove the hose into Dealey Plaza.
Still I sympathize with the people of Dallas---killing bugs is tough, even if they aren't the disease-carrying Culex mosquito. Years ago, a guy almost got himself lynched in the area when he advertised a device that could "kill every insect within two blocks." Hundreds of people sent money and in due time--about a week after the salesman had fled—each received a device that would do exactly as promised. It was two short pieces of 2x4 joined together with a rusty hinge, and---if you could get a bug to stand still while you slammed one end of the contraption shut---it would indeed kill any bug between the two blocks.
Years later, in my own modest fashion, I followed the example of that salesman myself. While I was at college, I took a temporary job during the summer at a hardware store down on the Houston ship channel. The store sold industrial items to large corporations on the docks. I was assigned to handle the needs of Armco Steel. Their purchasing agent routinely gave me a very hard time, usually referring to me as the 'Fuckin' College Kid' or worse. No matter what I did, he gave me a rough time. On my last day before the fall classes were going to start, I got the usual daily call from him.
"Hey, College Boy," he said. "Send over something that will kill roaches. And it sure as hell better work."
It was my last day, so I filled out the charge slip, and had the driver make a special delivery. I never heard how it worked out, but I'm pretty sure that twelve pound sledge hammer was effective.
Hey, Judge Jenkins, here's an idea for you: Make another special prayer request to the faith-based community. I can just picture the results now: all of Dallas armed with sledge hammers and blocks of wood. The mosquitoes won't stand a chance. Judge, if you can promise to deliver this, you've got my prayer.