Virus Survival

Orion Swinehart in WWI Army uniform at Fort Riley, Kansas

I want to share a poem with you that concerns the historic virus known as the Spanish Flu. My grandfather, Orion Wyant Swinehart (b. 1896-d. 1983), was in the thick of that virus. My poem parallels his life during that time with the events of the H1N1 virus history. The indented stanzas of my poem involve his life. The left-margined stanzas contain snippets of the national events from a century ago as well as current statistics. I list my resources after the poem.

I’ve been encouraged with some news reports providing survival statistics. I’m especially happy when good news reaches me about my friends, acquaintances, and family. Unfortunately, the bad news of the infection and mortality rates seem to outweigh those upbeat stories. While reviewing this history in my personal life and writing the following poem I became more hopeful for the future. Maybe this poem will encourage others to reach for endurance. Please be safe, healthy, and find your happiness.

The Great War and 1918 Influenza
 By Rose Klix 
  
 April 6, 1917, hesitant President Wilson led U.S. into war.
 Fort Riley, Kansas, expanded into a staging location
 and combat training site for up to 50,000 men.
             
    May 1917, 21-year-old Orion, an only child,
    nicknamed Piggy, solely ranched 443 acres.
    His father Owen crippled his hand in a harvesting machine. 
  
    A steady flow of flirty girls signed Piggy’s dance card.
    The country band rhythms hushed broadcasts about 
    The Great War torturing nations across the ocean.
  
    June 5, 1917, his military registration card
    described Orion as "short, stout, blue eyes, brown hair,
    not bald" (yet). He proudly wrote, "Single, No dependents."
  
    His mother Minnie screeched, “Demand an exemption.”
    A registrar gritted his teeth. He scowled over his glasses
    and wrote, "Father’s hand -  flimsy excuse".
  
 January 1918, Dr. Loring Miner warned a deadly viral strain 
 struck down the most robust as if by a bullet.
 Public Health neglected to analyze his Kansas report.
  
 March 4, 1918, at Camp Funston, five miles from Fort Riley, 
 a company cook from Haskell County reported feverishly sick. 
 Fast as a haystack fire, 522 men also reported critically ill.
  
    August 26, 1918, the Army assigned Orion to induct 
    troops at Fort Riley before deployment to war zones. 
    Recruits arrived every 30 days to be "run through the mill".
  
 Second Wave, Fall 1918, a more virulent strain returned to the U.S.
 Safe-distance contact and closing of schools, public gatherings, 
 and churches helped diminish the outbreaks to hundreds more deaths.
  
    November 11, 1918, Armistice Day,
    Orion couldn’t journey home yet. His tasks
    changed to processing GI discharges.
             
    January 16, 1919, Piggy’s homecoming day arrived.
    He boarded trains to reach the Elk Creek ranch
    and surprise his folks. His old collie Fanny leapt into his arms.
  
 In January 1919, a Third Wave added hundreds 
 of thousands worldwide influenza deaths. H1N1 
 microscopic enemies inhabited the world until June 1919.
  
January 31, 2021, Our infections totaled 26.2M with 441K deaths.
Grandpa survived a century ago. Social-distancing, careful hygiene,  
and mask wearing may allow his descendants to endure more eras.
 

My Resources: In writing this poem I used a family story my mother repeated to me that my grandfather was sent home from the Army due to the Spanish Flu. I also learned more from reviewing his memoir My Life Story by O.W. Swinehart written in February 1973. It was included in my mother Evelyn Mae (Swinehart) Rose’s memoir In Retrospect A Family History printed in 2004. Her book is preserved by the Rapid City Genealogical Society and saved in the Genealogy section of the Rapid City Main Public Library, South Dakota. I located records of Grandpa’s WWI registration card and an index card from the U.S. Veterans Bureau confirming his service dates.

I also learned history about the H1N1 virus and certain events by researching the following online resources:

  • CDC Disease Control Prevention article 1918 Pandemic Influenza: Three Waves
  • Wikipedia articles titled: Haskell County, Kansas; Spanish Flu; Fort Riley (Kansas); and Funston, (Kansas)
  • Kansas Historical Society articles Flu Epidemic of 1918 and Influenza Sign
  • The New York Times Daily Change article as of Jan 31, 2021

Post and poem Copyright 2021 by Rose Klix

South Dakota Wind

Land refused to ground them.

Sea gusts blew first generations

from England to Connecticut.

New York ancestors braved blasts

in Patriot’s Canada, scattered,

buried children, lost connections.

Lumber drew them farther West:

Chicago wagon makers, Kenosha

carpenters. Nebraska tree farmers

hoped for new standing timber.

A final exhaled warm soul

chilled a chinook in Oelrichs.

Prairie grassland blasts blistered

Buffalo Gap near eldest son.

We inherited South Dakota

wind’s tempestuous survival.

Poet’s note: In case you didn’t know, I was born and reared in South Dakota. This poem placed first in the South Dakota State Poetry Society’s 39th Annual contest and was published in their Pasque Petals magazine, Fall 2015 edition. I’ve been eyebrows deep in my father’s genealogy. Our ancestors’ stories inspired this poem.

www.RoseKlix.com

Zip Code Poem

I was challenged to write a poem about my zip code. The rules were simple – the first line contains the number of words in the first number, second line the number of words in the second number, etc. My zip code is 37918. So the first line contains three words, second line seven words, then nine words, one word and finally the last line is eight words. My poem totaled 28 words. Of course, your zip code would contain different numbers in each line.

I entered the following poem in the South Dakota Poetry Society (SDSPS) 39th Annual Poetry Contest. SDSPS is an affiliate of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS).  My poem won First Place! Thank you, SDSPS judges. I’m grateful to the Pasque Petals editors for publishing the contest results. I love reading through all the fellow poets’ works.

The SDSP’s blog website is sdstatepoetrysociety.wordpress.com The NFSPS website and links to other affiliated state societies is http://nfsps.com Check out all the opportunities to share your work.

Here’s my zip code poem:

37918

If tall, I’d

be kind to little Paul. I’d bend,

hear child whispers in my ear, enjoy his kisses.

I’d

lift high hopes he grows kinder than me.

If you enjoyed this poem, visit www.RoseKlix.com to learn of her poetry and prose collections.

 

 

Feeding Naturally

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sunflower seed head

The following poem reminds me when we planted sunflowers in our backyard. I enjoyed their faces turning towards the sun. The stalks grew much larger than we imagined. In the fall the birds were crazy for the seeds. I decided we needed to ration throughout the season. We dried the huge seed heads in the garage and pulled them out one by one. Since then we’ve bought the black sunflower seeds for our feeders. But this hasn’t been near as much fun as watching them pull apart the seed heads.

Sunflower Seed Frenzy

by Rose Klix

A gathering of autumn bird

visitors arrived unannounced

at the cardinal’s feeding tree.

He’s learned to share —

sometimes. Picky eaters throw

millet and corn on the ground

to mourning doves and

the blue jay clean-up crew.

The summer birdfeeder emptiness

left them gleaning on their own.

Rob pours a new mixture

into the holders.

Black sunflower seeds

are all-time favorites

to create a feeding frenzy

and envy from the blocked squirrel.

Published as a 39th Annual contest winner in Pasque Petals, The Magazine of the South Dakota Poetry Society, Fall 2015, Volume 89:2

If you like Rose Klix’s poem, you might enjoy her poetry collections and published prose writing. Visit her website at www.RoseKlix.com

Reincarnation

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Most, if not all, my life I’ve believed in reincarnation.

Here is a poem I wrote when sixteen years old.

REINCARNATION by Rose Klix

Past is present, and future came. First is second, the third’s a game.

Restoration to a new dawn, visions of what was are not gone.

Present, future, and past is done. Second is third and first is spun.

Who are you and what do you do? I’m nobody now that I’m through.

Future – now; renewal – begun. Third – infinity; past – rerun.

I am here and I didn’t fall. I’ve come back to seek my call.

– written in 1966 (reprinted from Pastiche of Poetry, Volume II and introduces Past Lives Before Now.)

Newly released prose New Age book Past Lives Before Now reports on twenty-three of my past lives recalled through dreams, déjà vu, visions, and regressions.

www.RoseKlix.com