Monday, December 12, 2011

What a Piece Of Work Is Man???

Sometimes, the things you find accidentally/ serendipitously/ unexpectedly, all while looking for other stuff can be a whole lot more fun than the stuff you set out to find in the first place.   

Here’s an example, followed by a comment.

While searching the October 1896 edition of The Medical Brief  (see above) for something else entirely, I came across the following – written for the journal by a doc in Kentucky:


Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of microbes.

He cometh forth like a flower, but is soon wilted by the winds of adversity and scorched by flames of perplexity.

Sorrow and headache follow him all the days of his life.

He hoppeth from his bed in the morning and his foot is pierced by the cruel tack of disappointment.

He ploddeth forth to his daily toil and his cuticle is punctured by the malignant nettles of exhaustion.

He sitteth himself down to rest at noonday, and is lacerated in his nether anatomy by the pin of disaster.

He walketh through the streets of the city in the pride and glory of his manhood, and slippeth on the banana peel of misfortune and unjointeth his neck.

He smoketh the cigar of contentment but, lo! It explodeth with a loud noise, for it was loaded.

Behold he glideth down the banister of life and findeth it strewn with splinters of torture.

He is stung by the mosquitoes of annoyance by day and his frame is gnawed by the bedbugs of affliction by night.

What is man but the blind worm of fate, seeing that his days are numbered by cycles of pain and his years by seasons of mourning.

Behold he is impaled upon the hook of desolation, and is swallowed up by death in the fathomless ocean of time and is remembered no more.

In his infancy he runneth over with worms and colic, and in his old age he groaneth with rheumatism and ingrowing toe-nails.

He marryeth a cross-eyed woman because her father hath a bank account, and findeth that she is ridden with hysteria and believeth in witches.

His father-in-law then monkeyeth with stocks and goeth under.

What is man but a carbuncle on the neck of existence? Yea, but a tumor on the back of fate.

He playeth at the races and staketh his substance on the brown mare because he hath received a tip. The sorrel gelding with a bald face winneth by a neck.

Behold he runneth for office and the dead beat pulleth him ever and anon and then voteth against him.

He exalteth himself among the people and swelleth with pride, but when the votes are counted he findeth that he was not in it.

He boasteth of his strength in Israel, but is beaten by a bald-headed man from Taller Creek.

He goeth to the post office to glance at the latest papers, and receiveth a dun from the doctor for his last year's attentions.

He goeth forth to breathe the fresh air and to meditate on the treachery of all earthly things, and is accosted by a bank cashier with a sight draft for $127.39.

A political enemy lieth in wait for him at the market place and walketh around him crowing like unto a cock.

He trusteth in a man who claimeth to be filled with righteousness and standeth high in the synagogue, and gets done up.

For behold his pious friend is full of guile and runneth over with deception.

From the cradle to the grave man giveth his alms to him that smiteth him.

His seed multiplyeth around him and cryeth for bread, and if his sons come to honor he knoweth it not.

Fate prevaileth ever against him.

What is man but a painful wart on the heel of time.

John Collins, M. D. RockHouse, Ky.

So, just who was this “John Collins, M.D.?”  Being a genealogist, I needed to know, so it was off to the census and a few other quickie online sources.

Aside from being a physician taken with the cadence of his King James Bible, Dr. Collins was a farmer – doctor.

The 1900 US Census shows that John Collins, age 36, physician, lived on a farm in Magisterial District 3 – Rock House in Letcher County, Kentucky, along with his wife of 13 years,  Polly, age 33, and their three children Ada, 12, Arthur, 11, and Bruce, 7.

In 1901, Dr. Collins was secretary to the Letcher County Board of Health.  Lest you think he spent his days in quiet reflection as a country doctor, writing humorous poetry and attending to the occasional sick person, Marcus Welby-like, his July 16th, 1901 letter to the Kentucky State Board of Health will likely disabuse you of that notion.

While discussing the successful containment of an outbreak of five cases of smallpox, he noted:

Our chief difficulties in stamping out the disease were: These cases occurred in a district where a bitter feud was raging, and our doctors were loath to visit the district; but the people near, on first intimation of the trouble, instituted prompt means for confining and limiting the disease.”

The feud – known as the Wright – Reynolds Feud – was the conflict referenced above. 

I guess it’s hard to think about smallpox containment when members of your potential patients’ families are shooting at each other…

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