Lee Pitts: Sanitized but not immunized

Lee Pitts

I’m sure you’ve heard the theory that drugs for humans are losing their effectiveness because we have overused them to the point that the bad bugs and bacteria are developing an immunity to our best medicines. I don’t know about all that but I do know that people are no longer developing an immunity to germs early in life because mothers are afraid to let them get dirty. The array of cleaning products and canned fragrances in any grocery store now dwarfs the candy display. That isn’t right! I even have a friend who spends so much time in the bathtub he can control the hot and cold faucets with his toes.

I swear, we’ve turned into a nation of neat freaks!

Urban kids today stay inside a sterile house playing video games all day instead of playing in the dirt like we used to, so when they do venture into the outdoors they are fair game for every germ that comes along. Instead of smelling like mud pies, B.O. and Kool-Aid, today’s kids smell like French Vanilla, Lysol, Irish Spring and “natural” fragrances from a can. All this sanitizing and disinfecting has left us more vulnerable than if we’d have just battled it out with the germs when first given the opportunity.

I come from a long line of working folks who believed that if you aren’t getting dirty you aren’t working. Even though I make my living writing stories, I feel I haven’t been productive at the end of the day if I haven’t gotten at least a little dirty. Of course, on a ranch, that’s extremely easy to do. There are more germs per inch on a ranch than are on the salad bar sneeze shield at your favorite fast-food joint.

It’s not that country folks don’t clean up good, it’s just that they can get squeaky clean to go to someplace special like a bull sale, but by the time they’ve driven down the dirt road to get to the highway, they’re dirtier than before they showered.

On a ranch cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness, it’s darn near next to impossible!

I never have been too fond of people who’ve managed to stay clean all their lives. A good example is a rich “ranch kid” who has spent most of his life at private schools in the east where he became immunized against work and developed an allergic reaction to dirt. He shared a trait with polar bears in that he cleaned up AFTER he ate because eating was the dirtiest thing he did all day.

This year’s semester break coincided with some cattle work and amongst the New Mexico cowboys the dainty dude stuck out like a peacock in a pen full of mallards. The cowboys had been gathering cattle for a full week and consequently the baths and showers were as far apart as the rain drops that haven’t fallen this year in that part of the world. The cowboys had managed to acquire multiple layers of dirt, blood and assorted splatterings, so that when they washed up for supper in the wash bucket they left a thick layer of scum floating on top and a layer of sludge on the bottom. It looked like an old-time dipping vat after the herd had been run through. And the single threadbare towel hanging from the bucket handle was even dirtier than those old roll-the-towel dispensers you used to find in gas stations before hand blowers blew on to the scene.

I don’t know if it was done on purpose but the prim and prissy fellow was the last man through the water and he barely dipped his dainty fingers in the murky mess, took one look at the towel, and dried his finger tips on his clean pants.

Later that same day when he went to water his horse he accidentally dropped his expensive sunglasses in a water trough that hadn’t been cleaned since Roosevelt was President. And I’m talking Teddy, not Franklin D. Pausing for a moment to decide if his glasses were worth it, the college boy daintily rolled up the sleeve on his RIGHT arm and then proceeded to dip his LEFT one in the water to retrieve his sunglasses.

It seems the Ivy Leaguer had also developed an immunity to brainwork.