My momma wasn’t like anyone else’s momma.
She knew things, different things than most people. It was on account of her being born in the tropics.
Each year, when it got hot enough to sweat, momma’d put out a bolt of cotton gauze and shears with a funny jagged edge. She’d make tents for each of our beds and we’d spend the rest of the summer camping in doors.
The servant boy would be sent out to do the shopping, but only after momma was sure he’d rubbed a stinky salve on his skin, to keep the bugs away. I’m sure the men in their stores didn’t much like the way he smelled, but they probably forgave it for the custom he brought with him.
They’re magic, she told me when I asked about them, they keep the sickness away. And sure enough, none of our family never got sick. Least not the same ways everyone else did.
Sometimes it could be scary, watching the streets empty, smelling the smoke and quicklime on the wind, but momma kept us safe from the epidemic.
We stayed in that house year after year, all because my momma wasn’t like anyone else’s momma.
Yellow Fever shares a lot of similarities to malaria; seasonality, method of transmission, even some symptoms. It also vulnerable to some of the same simple prevention methods, like a mosquito tent. If this had been widely known in the 1870s, Memphis might be a completely different city today.