Gardens of the Cross Timbers: One little shot

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Gravel Growler road

Feel for the participants who competed in this year’s Oklahoma Gravel Growler on Feb. 6. Starting promptly at 9 a.m. at St. Crispin’s Conference Center and Camp, bicyclists took off every two minutes. They could choose 34, 50 or 82 miles of cycling fun on ‘virgin’ gravel roads over hills and dales. What made the ride even more challenging was the fickle weather. As temperatures dropped, light rain turned into icy rain that soon transitioned into heavy, thick snowflakes. Grinders began dropping out as they froze and their bicycles started to rub and rasp from the wet sandy grit and mud. Rescue vehicles ran back and forth, picking up folks who lasted 40, 50 or more miles before calling it a day. Others actually finished their race. These are tough riders. A station was set up with bike racks and hoses for washing the debris and soil off of prized bicycles. Hot chili and cold beer helped to recover.

The plan was to connect with our son at one of the four SH-99 crossovers on a course which had been laid out like a maze. He had chosen to conquer 82 miles. We tooled down the Interstate and soon realized the next exit was beyond the race course. Doubling back, GPS showed he was at the 42-mile post. Taking Highway 99 westward to race mile 42, we paused to watch riders splattered in reddish brown sludge slide down a dirt road across the intersection to the other side and keep on going. Our son was not there. Searching the GPS map, we found him moving at a fast pace down St. Crispin’s Drive. What? We took off in pursuit. At the center we located him warming up in his jeep. He grinned and said he and his bike were done, so he caught a ride back. It was all good. Later, five of us drove to Seminole for a hot Mexican lunch.

I have been of two minds about the COVID-19 vaccine. It has emergency use authorization but has not yet been approved. The vaccine is still one third the way into Phase III trials and data is still being collected about its effectiveness and side effects. Other strains of the virus are now cropping up. Nothing new in the rapidly evolving disease world with something always waiting around the corner to topple the newest miracle drug.

Covid Pod in Norman, Oklahoma

IMMY labs opened up two vaccination events Friday, Feb. 5, in Norman. One pod was held in the morning and the next during the afternoon at Embassy Suites. Pfizer vaccine was provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Each person receiving the first dose was automatically scheduled for the second dose in 21 days. IMMY expected to vaccinate 5,000 people that Friday. My husband and I were part of the morning stampede, courtesy of our son and girlfriend who spent quite some time online the day before, successfully getting us appointments.

The experience was well organized. Signs guided cars to parking lots. Signs and volunteers in blue t-shirts directed us to the huge conference room filled with chairs six feet apart neatly lined up in long rows. I haven’t seen so many old people in one place. They came in wheelchairs, used canes, walked with effort or ably strode in, along with some first responders and physicians, all ready to take the shot. Dozens of technicians registered each of them into the computer base. Nurses quickly administered the shots. After 15 minutes of waiting for any reaction, our row was dismissed. I feel I am a lab rat in a gigantic experiment. Is that the reason for the tiny fever and a really sore upper arm?

IMMY vaccination sticker

IMMY labs in Norman, Oklahoma, has partnered with infectious disease labs, clinics and physicians for 40 years. It manufactures and distributes diagnostic tests and infectious disease reagents. Research is aimed at fungal diseases, but IMMY came on board as Covid-19 crisscrossed the globe. The Pfizer vaccine comes from the American multinational pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York, New York. Vaccines are shipped directly from their Kalamazoo, Michigan, site or distributed out of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

How does the vaccine work? The mRNA vaccine directs the raw non-living virus to deliver instructions to living human cells where they make copies of a harmless protein unique to the COVID-19 virus. The cells then destroy that genetic material, but are now primed to produce antibodies (T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes) to search and eradicate other Covid-19 (COron VIrusDisease-2019) virus particles. Johnson and Johnson is coming out with a one-shot vaccination which uses an attenuated cold virus. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept super cold, but the J&J vaccine is not so picky.

Speaking of super cold. This year we are having a taste of an Icelandic winter. Some of my greenhouse and outdoor plants may not make it, but if the tick population also succumbs, so be it. The wild bobcat is preparing. A few nights ago, it yowl-growled for some time in the dark cold behind my house. The cat had a choppy, raspy voice very un-catlike which penetrated the air. Probably why prairie voles, rats and other rodents have been in short supply. A deadly predator, such as the Covid virus, can be a bad thing, or a wily predator, as the wild cat, can be a good thing and help maintain the balance in nature. The small dark ducks don’t agree. They were lounging in the pond when this very large bird swooped down. As it flew back up, I saw a brilliant white tail fan out. As the bird circled around, I saw the white head. Bald eagle looking for a duck dinner. The formidable bird plunged toward the ducks, skimming the top of the water. The ducks submerged. The eagle again rose into the sky. The ducks surfaced. The eagle attempted yet another low pass. As it began to turn, the ducks took off low and quick, vanishing out of sight. The eagle made two additional orbits around the pond before soaring away to the southeast. Within a minute, another eagle flew over my head, following the first one. Drama on the high seas, or shallow pond.

“I don’t understand why cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” Author unknown

Happy Freezin’ Valentine’s Day!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at