I’ll be honest with you, from my chair on the back porch the world looks just fine. The hummingbirds are buzzing, the bees are humming, and I could just doze off any minute now. That is, if it wasn’t for that danged cell phone, possibly the worst interrupter of life.
It’s pinging again with - I’m guessing - another email update on the coronavirus, but as I sit here looking around at the normality of our backyard it holds no relevance. Come to think of it, I was doing basically the same thing on a similar porch some 30-40 years ago without the interruptions, long before internet “must reads” and cell phone botherations could disturb one’s reverie.
OK, OK, you’re right, I could switch everything off. But then, dagnabbit, I wouldn’t know how scared I should be about catching the big bad bug.
My head is spinning.
Time was if you wanted to know the news of the world you’d have to wait for Walter Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley to come on TV at six o’clock. In the meantime, you could go on with your life and not being tempted into checking up on what’s going on every (fill in the minutes).
I was talking with someone the other day about the time when making a telephone call meant you had to actually sit by the phone. Unless you had a long curly cord, of course. The telephone was black and heavy and wasn’t going anywhere, so the whole worry of losing your phone was non-existent. None of this digital malarky. It was all hands-on and making a call required a learning curve.
The small town I grew up in had a telephone exchange manned by a row of ladies sitting at switchboards who would say, “number please” when you picked up the receiver. That was before area codes came into existence, so if you wanted to call someone in another town or state you were transferred to a long-distance operator who had all the phone books from everywhere. You told her the name and address and she would look up the number and make the connection. And since it was more expensive to call long-distance, you could have the call be person-to-person instead of station-to-station to make sure you wouldn’t get charged if the person wasn’t there. And if you only had a nickel you could “reverse the charges” from a telephone booth. And it was cheaper after 11 p.m.
On second thought, I guess things were pretty head-spinning back then, too. Although landlines still charge more for long-distance, like from Magdalena to Socorro, but instead of around $4 for three minutes, it’s something like 25 cents now.
If one might think the current health restrictions are too oppressive, I was reading something Virginia Hawthorne wrote in the El Camino Real Historic Trail Site newsletter last week about an episode in Socorro’s history that kind of relates to today’s times. It was compiled by Paul Harden and originally published in the Chieftain.
In 1897, a smallpox epidemic swept across New Mexico. Many died in Belen, then Sabinal, then La Joya. To the south, San Marcial and San Antonio began reporting nearly daily deaths. This was an epidemic nobody knew how to deal with.
Mayor Elfego Baca quickly decided to quarantine the entire town of Socorro. He placed armed guards on El Camino Real, the only road leading into and out of the city. Deputized armed men met each arriving train to prevent anyone from disembarking at Socorro. Ticket agents were given harsh instructions that only one-way tickets could be sold. Whether you left by road or rail, you couldn’t return.
Elfego Baca completely isolated Socorro from the rest of the world. This was met with bitter opposition by some, but Baca’s “hired guns” prevailed.
However, no local cases of smallpox are reported in the Socorro Chieftain. Along the Rio Grande, Socorro was the only sizable community to escape the wrath of the deadly 1897-1898 smallpox epidemic.
Yes, it could be worse. And it was, in 1897.
Don’t forget what’s coming up this Sunday, June 14. It’s Flag Day, celebrating the adoption of the flag made by Betsy Ross. And I’ve always thought it’s pretty cool that the stars were made from her unmentionables. At least that’s what I was led to believe in the fourth grade. I also thought that girls were icky, and boy was I ever wrong about that as well.
On checking my trusty almanac, besides Flag Day, Sunday is also National Pig Callers Day.
In case you’re wondering, yes, pigs can’t resist “sooo-weee!” It’s like saying, “Come and get it! Dinnertime!”
I might answer that call myself. Just remember to add some red or green to my slop bucket.