It is 24 below zero and the clear blue Montana sky and powder snow really are tugging at me to climb into my ski gear and go for it. Unfortunately, I have been coughing nonstop for the last nine days from some form of mutated Chinese, Hawaiian, Korean, Japanese, Alaskan, Seattle, respiratory microbe that found its way into my lungs at a five-degree outdoor book signing 10 days ago.
I know this is a rare form of mutated germs that found a home in my body because every couple of hours some new symptom is knocking me out until I fall asleep for three or four hours. In between headaches, joint aches, coughing, dizziness, fogged up eyes and a disposition that would make a train run on a dirt road, this has not been the best month of my life.
My current illness can be traced to a group of farmers who were on a co-operative trip to help Chinese farmers increase their production of hogs. Join me and follow the journey of one of these farmers and his camera. In a small farm 600 miles northwest of Beijing, Clyde got out his electronic camera and took half a dozen shots of the pigs, the farmers, and the layout of the farm. He didnt know it at the time, but some hog farm germs that Ill call Bejing-hog-bacillus climbed aboard his camera when he dropped it in the mud alongside of the pigsty. These Chinese germs had survived several centuries of mutations and, as usual, were several years ahead of the latest multi-million-dollar research flu vaccinations that are being shot into people in the U.S.
From Beijing, Clyde and his camera flew to Hong Kong for a three-day holiday, where he shot more pictures. Some of them were shot during rush hour when the dust from the heavy traffic forced him to don a surgical mask to breathe properly. Here, the Beijing-hog-bacillus germs found some friendly Hong Kong germs and romance bloomed almost instantly, which made the next generation of germs even more potent. On the way home to his ranch in Montana, Clyde made subsequent stops in Tokyo, Anchorage, Seattle and Bozeman. At each stop, some other contagious form of extra strong germs were attracted to Clydes electronic camera. They arrived due to static electricity, carelessness, and wind blowing in the wrong direction. All of the mutated germs were still propagating in that camera when Clyde showed up at Big Sky for his first day of skiing since he had left for China three weeks before.
By this time, Beijing-hog-bacillus was such a strong mutated germ, that if Saddam Hussein knew about them, he would be manufacturing thousands of pounds of them and could shut down the entire world for at least three weeks per infected person.
At book-signing time, Laurie and I faced a 10-mile-an-hour wind and a dozen or so people wanting to buy books and have me sign them. One of those dozen people happened to be Clyde the Beijing tourist farmer with his dangerously infected electronic camera. After I autographed his books, he wanted to have his picture taken with me so he handed his camera to Laurie. Clyde and I each gave it the old smile and flashbulbs went off while the mutated Beijing-hog-bacillus germs were blown downwind. There, they found a nice warm place to propagate when I inhaled them and within six hours they knocked me out for the last nine days.
If you dont think this story is true, listen while I cite another recent incident of another airborne infection.
This one happened when I watched Laurie check onto a flight in Bozeman the other day. When they were screening her luggage, all sorts of alarms went off because the chemicals the screeners use detected gunpowder on her luggage. Half a dozen very official looking and sounding people arrived immediately and proceeded to thoroughly search her suitcases. They even rotated the lipstick in her cosmetic case to see if it contained a secret dynamite stash or the gunpowder.
No gunpowder was found except on the outside of her suitcase. After 68 minutes of searching, she was allowed on board. The only thing anyone was able to figure out about the presence of gunpowder is that we live about a mile and half due east of where the ski patrol dynamites the cornices to eliminate the chance of avalanches after a big snowfall. When the west wind is blowing, some of the dynamite smoke blows as far away as our house and falls along with the snowflakes. Putting the suitcase in the fresh fallen snow in the driveway apparently picked up that dynamite dust.
I wish that I could detect airborne germs as easily as airport security can detect gunpowder. My lack of germ radar cost me nine days of skiing.