Monday, June 23, 2008

The Argus Observes: How DDT made summer “comfortable” in 1953

(Editor’s note: When I was a kid, maybe ten or eleven, we’d stand out in the yard when the small prop plane flew over town dropping DDT spray to kill the mosquitoes and other bugs of summer. We’d look up, let the spray sprinkle our faces and taste it with our tongues, not knowing of course the side effects. It’s possible our mothers urged us inside with some warning that the stuff might not be good for us. But there was no real concern, as this column by my father makes clear.)

From the July 21, 1953 issue of the Argus-Observer

Few things have made me as instantly angered and frustrated as getting switched across the eyes by a cow’s tail.

It was a common experience of this season during my boyhood.

I hated to get up in the morning before breakfast time so my father took the morning shift and I got the evening chore with the family cow.

Then fly spray we had in those days never seemed quite effective. You would tie the cow’s tail to her leg. Then start concentrating on being ready to jerk the pail and jab her leg when she kicked at the flies.

Presently her tail would work loose and slap a stinging blow across your eyes.
Then before you recovered your poise, she would really kick, taking the milk stool, you and the pail all in one good blow.

Times must be different now. With DDT for spray and milking machines I almost every barn, I suppose the tricks in milking in fly season are becoming a lost art.

If modern spraying has done as much for the insect problem in the barn and the milk house as it has in the city areas, summer chores on the farm are much pleasanter than they used to be.

Last week the city of Ontario was sprayed and the mosquitoes and gnats disappeared overnight. The flies never get a start anymore.

City spraying is a service we have come to take for granted during the past five years. It seems only yesterday that there was considerable debate over the inclusion of spraying cost in thecity budget.

One year it was left out of an economy budget and the service clubs went out on a door-to-door campaign and quickly raised $1,000 to finance spraying. It was one of the best supported fundraising ventures of recent years.

The absence of insects is probably the greatest contributing factor to the crowing habit of outdoor living on lawns and patios that are now being furnished like a room in the home.

Today’s summer comfort is a far cry from the hot months of yesteryear when we put fly traps on the porches, strung fly paper from the ceilings, waited until the family was seated before food was put on the table and then shooed flies while we ate. -- By Don Lynch


Ed Darrell said...

Any problems with the birds when they sprayed everything?

I remember the spraying trucks in Burley, Idaho. But I also remember that we had very few birds in the trees those summers.

Larry L. Lynch said...

I don't remember anything about the birds. We had robins and sparrows mainly and I think they managed to stay around. But it's a good question.

Late in life, I've wondered what it might have done to our immune systems.

But I think the chemicals did more harm to my grandparents who operated a dairy farm during and after the war. My grandfather died of the strain asthma put on his heart. My grandmother died of blood poisoning that weakened her system.