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" … The Crud gets to deal at least one hand every year,
and The Crud cheats at cards."

As lovely as The Walla Walla Valley has always been, it retains a kind of curse certain to visit each and every resident and visitor during the Winter months. For some, it comes in the Fall, but nobody living in this valley through the unsettled season seems able to avoid contracting what the locals refer to as The Crud. I always called it Lewis And Clark Lung, imagining a curse dating to their visit to the Valley after narrowly escaping their demise crossing the Bitterroots. The valley seemed like a little Eden to them, and doubtless was a little Eden in comparison with the Camas Prairie and trackless forests to the East, but curses seem to favor Edens somehow.

The Crud can't quite be classified as a cold.
It's not exactly bronchitis, either, or necessarily pneumonia, though it resembles all three, but it's no here-today, gone-tomorrow incursion. I spoke with the checker at Safeway this morning who asked me how I was doing before noticing that I was buying some thermonuclear decongestant. I asked her how she avoided getting 'it', and she said she was down with it for the last half of December. Now, of course, she's free to work ringing up purchases like mine for the balance of this unseasonable season. She's already paid her dues. I just started paying mine.

I don't really feel bad enough to suspend any animation, but I am dragging both of my heels around behind me. My nose started running yesterday, a clear escalation. My ears can't hear right and I have to stop to blow my nose every minute or two. I'm probably contagious. It's been a few years since I've been in The Valley during Crud season, but I grew up here and I know the routine. As sort-of comforting as it might seem to just blame it on the climate or the place, a part of The Crud brings a personal sense of culpability, like I've shunned my carrot juice a few times too often, and so contracted a case of retribution. Whether of divine origin or something more earthly, I got it bad and that ain't good.

Insisting upon continuing the normally scheduled programming is a revered part of contracting The Crud. Because I don't quite feel bad enough, I continue as if I'm still 100%, when I know somewhere deep down in my mucous-encased soul, that I'm not nearly half as good as I give myself credit for being. This, too, seems perfectly in synch with what any native Walla Wallan would recognize as a familiar part of the local trance. We're located just fifty miles off the old Oregon Trail route. Lewis and Clark might have happened through here but we were largely bypassed by those seeking The Eden at The End of The Trail. French trappers settled here and ex-Confederate raiders from Missouri. What would ever leave us thinking our britches were very big?

The weather in this Valley is downright Mediterranean compared to Montana or even Spokane, but it's a skitzy sort of climate this time of year. Perfectly ambient for a week before reverting to sleet, then snow, then rain, then the sort of blustery Kansas became famous for. The sinuses simply cannot cope. The head fills, the nose runs, and chest wheezes in abject acknowledgement and even the healthy and robust submit to their due. The Crud comes but once a year. No vaccination prevents it. No medication blunts its effect. In the oldest folks, it turns into congestive heart failure, but in the rest of us, it turns into the first significant dedication test of the year. Mornings challenge us like in no other season to simply stand up and be accounted for. Evenings close in on us like suffocating pillows. Respite seems eons away and everyone you meet on the street has either had it and is too willing to share their story, currently suffering through it, or about a day away from finally conceding that they've had it for the past two weeks.

This too, we natives to this valley somebody liked so well they named it twice, concede, shall eventually pass. This isn't my year to pass on to the next world under the slippery tutelage of The Crud. My day will most certainly come one day. Some of us natives flee further South during this disturbing season, but this year, I came Home. I am not and have no right to be surprised with the outcome. As my dad confided to me long ago, this is just part of the deal. Nobody escapes the curse. Not the observant Adventists who so closely monitor their nutrition nor the profligate wine grape growers touting The Walla Walla Lifestyle. Of course the glossy magazines never tout this small detail when declaring this valley one of the fifty best places to retire in the USA. Every retirement here comes in at least two stages, the exuberant fantasy and the discouraging crud. The quality of the exuberance can certainly outweigh the reality of The Crud, but The Crud gets to deal at least one hand every year, and The Crud cheats at cards.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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