World Enough and Time: Health and sanity

Bill Hagen
Contributing writer
Are masks making a comeback?

A good friend tells me that she had a dream in which she was reading my next News-Star column. The ultimate fan! Unfortunately, any words in the column didn't register, so I have no clue what I am supposed to write.

My own dream was no help, since it came from my last column. I was on the road again, where I had not gone—the high plains. I had gotten off the interstate onto a dusty track that ended in a dry creek bed. In the distance, I could see cars on the interstate. I decided to walk to the interstate to get help. Why didn't I just turn around and drive back the way I had come? Like most (males?), I hate to retrace my steps.

As we are in the midst of the dog days of August, we are assured of three things: Heat, the fire danger will be high, and our state will continue, with several others, to top the charts in increased hospitalized COVID cases among the unvaccinated.

Having talked with one relative and others who are anti-vax, I agree with polls that indicate those folks may not be convinced until COVID hits them or someone close to them. Mandates by employers may be the only way to insure a safe workplace. Meanwhile, hospitals are running out of beds in their ICU units.

Two out of three folks in Pott County are unvaccinated. So have you noticed a high percentage of people wearing masks indoors? Of course not. As a matter of fact, many of us who are vaccinated are wearing masks again, since we don’t want even the mild effects of the new variant—nor do we want to spread it.

Splashing at Shawnee Splash

It’s encouraging to see that some school districts in Oklahoma and Texas are ignoring the bans on mask mandates. When 1/5th of your student body is ill, after a week, and over 20 teachers in quarantine at Santa Fe South, mandating masks makes sense—short of closing classrooms altogether. Let the local officials decide!

On a more positive note, what can we do in the heat to stay healthy and sane? I’m one of a small group that plays tennis in the early morning and I note a number of folks doing yard work, which can be good exercise. In the evening, the walkers are out. Pickle Ball continues at the Senior Center and it was good to see so many youngsters going to swim lessons at Shawnee Splash.

Now that Splash is closed, I assume the only indoor pool available to the public is at the “Y.” It’s a shame the best pool in town, the saline pool at the OBU Wellness Center, is closed indefinitely. Costs too much to repair, I hear. Besides, OBU no longer has a swim team, in spite of past championships.

As a former faculty member, I am sad that OBU has chosen to de-emphasize what I would call “lifetime” sports in favor of spectator sports. Golf, tennis and swimming are all sports one can continue well into adulthood; they help one maintain a healthy lifestyle. Much as I like to sit and snack while watching football or basketball, I would never claim spectating helps me stay healthy.

How the Romans party

To avoid becoming “mad dogs” in this heat, I recommend being polite at four-way stops, obeying speed limits, and visiting air-conditioned museums. We have three very good ones in Shawnee, with the recent opening of the Historical Society Museum at the Santa Fe Depot. (The other two are the Mabee-Gerrer and the CPN Museum south of town.)

Finally, go to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for a rare opportunity to see how the ancient Romans lived in the exhibit of painted frescoes taken from the walls of Pompeii and nearby villages, buried for centuries by the ash of Mount Vesuvius. As I did, you can take pictures without flash. It’s well worth a trip. Exhibit runs to Oct. 18. And while you’re there, take in the dazzling Chihuly glass sculptures.

Stay healthy and sane!

Chiluly glass flowers

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at