- Fred Spriggs

In one of my first columns concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, I referenced a song by “The Doors” and their mega-hit “Strange Days.”

Since then, we’ve seen the virus continue to infect people in communities across southwest Missouri, the nation and the world.

Several folks in town are now recovering, thankfully, from the virus.

Jim Morrison sang, “Strange days are here ...” over 50 years ago, yet the lyrics to that song still ring true.

The world was strange and in turmoil in 1969 — the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation, Red China’s “Cultural Revolution” and support for North Vietnam in its war against our country, massive protests in the U.S. against the Vietnam War, the “hippie” movement and mind-expanding, recreational drug abuse, racial turmoil in the U.S., the Hong Kong Flu, famine in Africa that killed more than a million people, terrorist threats in Europe and the Middle East and war clouds hanging over Israel.

It seems that little has changed in our world since 1969.

Fast forward to 2020 — the rattling of sabers over the South China Sea’s oil-rich shallow waters, with China vying against the U.S. fleet, Vietnam, the Philippines, the Republic of China and Indonesia for control, a resurgence of the nuclear threat from Russia along with a number of nations who now have, or are suspected of having, nuclear arsenals in their war chests, the ever-present COVID-19 virus that seems to be lasting forever, the on-again, off-again threats coming from dictator Kim Jong Un in “Best Korea” while rumors swirl about whether he’s dead or not, the controversy over global warming, radical Islam’s jihad against Christians, Jews, other Western countries and especially Americans, the infinite threat of war against Israel and hatred of the police exasperated by social unrest in many of the major cities in our country.

Could things get much worse in the year 2020?

I can’t predict the future, but in my 68 years on this planet, I don’t remember a year that’s seen all the aforementioned troubles listed above, spiced up with so many other weird things that seem to be going on thanks to good old Mother Nature.

For example, for the first time in history, the National Weather Service in northern California issued a tornado warning for a “fire tornado.” Unlike most whirlwinds that

have been noted in wildfires, this fire tornado near Lake Tahoe was the first one ever that started producing tornadic-force winds.

On June 18, Caribou, Maine, was the nation’s hot spot, recording a temperature of 96-degrees Fahrenheit. Things warmed up even more in Siberia, historically one of the coldest places on Earth. On June 20, a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit set a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.

Even though the following event is nonsensical because we all know that nearly every animal, insect or reptile in Australia is out to kill humans, it still needs mentioning here.

A recent report off the coast of Tasmania noted a 10-year-old boy, fishing with his dad, was pulled off the boat by a shark that jumped up, grabbed him by the arm and started taking him to “Davy Jones Locker” as its snack.

Thankfully, the boy was wearing his life jacket, and his dad jumped in the water and started hitting the shark. The boy suffered a few bites on his arm and was treated and released from the hospital.

The report added that Australia has one of the highest rates of shark attacks in the world.

Things have really gotten strange in our one-time colonial ruler, England. The nation is being attacked by “Killer Asian Hornets” and angry, “drunk” German wasps.

It reminds me of the Axis powers who attacked Great Britain during World War II. To finish Britain’s World War II enemy trifecta in 2020, we still need Italy to contribute some type of annoying insect to this year’s “Battle of Britain.”

Since I’m the new, “woke” Fred, I want to ensure readers understand the following is not some sort of weird, inappropriate Polish joke.

It seems that because of the pandemic and crowds who have stopped visits to animals, caretakers at the Warsaw Zoo have decided the best way to cure the stress levels elephants are experiencing because of their lack of human-visitor contact is to start getting them stoned.

I’m a proponent of medical marijuana, but even I don’t think getting elephants high on weed is a good idea. If they get the “munchies,” are there enough Oreo cookies in Poland for the stoned elephants? Can you imagine the “nose hit” an elephant could take with that long trunk. Although marijuana makes music sound better, with those big ears jamming to tunes while they are “toasted” might be too much for the stressed pachyderms to handle.

Even though better known for cheese, beer, the Green Bay Packers and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, in Wisconsin on Aug. 6 some kayakers found a carnivorous English Sundew plant along the banks of Lake Superior. Scientists said this was the first time in 40 years the meat-eating plant had been spotted in Wisconsin. I seem to remember an old black-and-white monster movie that started like this, so those “Sconsin Cheese Heads” had better watch out.

File this one under the “Only In California” category.

Recently, two elderly San Francisco hikers had to be rescued by a California Highway Patrol helicopter after a cow, protecting her calf, chased them down the trail. The report added the noise from the helicopter scared the two bovines, and they ran away, saving the elderly couple from further injury and embarrassment.

I have noticed a couple of things resulting from the pandemic that make me smile — my “spam” e-mails have dropped off to a trickle, and when I look up at the sky today, it’s the color blue I remember from childhood. Back in the 1950s, the only jet contrails polluting the sky came from Strategic Air Command’s bombers and tankers keeping us safe from nuclear attack by communist Russia and China.

“Duck and cover” is still good advice as we try to avoid the COVID-19 virus..

Fred Spriggs is the former news editor of the Webster County Citizen, a position he held for nearly 15 years and where he won dozens of national and state awards for journalism excellence. He now lives in rural Stone County in retirement with his wife, Julie, who also is a Seymour native.

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