The summer that the Wild Cat Strikes were on was a hot one . The kids in town spent a lot of time down at the town beach at the Mattawa River . Nothing felt better than the river on days when the temperature soared .
An illness began to spread around town -mostly young people were coming down with something . The heat seemed to be making it worse . Fever , rash and overly active bowels . Many were 'laid up' in their beds at home . Mum was worried that whatever was making everyone ill would hit us sooner or later . She had this habit that whenever something was going around we would have to bring a stool sample to the doctor for testing . This time was no different in approach. It was different in the result .
The doctor told us to come for an appointment at the end of the day , about an hour after closing when things had quieted down . That was a strange request . So , the family piled into the old Chev and toddled down through town to his office at 8:30 pm .
The doctor announced that my test and Mum's had unusual and serious results . Mine in particular was extremely dangerous . Mum had traces of something cows get but it was nothing to be worried about . I had something pigs get but the doctor was not too concerned about that either . What I did have present in my body posed a threat to anyone who came near me . Typhoid fever had been found . I would have to be quarantined for a month .
Mum refused to lock me in a room for a month alone so she told the doctor to quarantine the entire family . I really didn't think this was fair . I wasn't sick .Mum told the doctor that he should check others in town . There were many people who were sick who were not being treated . It was already around she was sure . However , I was the only one who had been tested. Officially , I was the only carrier .
Dad had to miss work but they let him work the section alone in the evenings so he would have income . My Aunt delivered groceries to us . She would carry them half way across the track , where Dad would retrieve them .
Thirty little vials of pills containing three pills each were arranged on the window sills in the inside out room . When I had made my way through the lot , my quarantine would be done . There was little chance for me to spread it to anyone except my family and my friend .
The morning after we were locked away behind the invisible wall , she came across the tracks as usual to spend the day . Immediately , Dad told her she could not stay because I was quarantined . She would have to wait until July was over . Annoyed , she stomped off home . While we were eating lunch , she waltzed through the front door with her bag of clothes and declared that she was staying . Now that she had infiltrated the colony , she had to stay .
Her mother hadn't known that the quarantine was in effect and thought her daughter was spending two nights . On the third day , she came looking for her . Half way across the track , Dad stopped her . He tried to explain that her daughter had to stay . She had no choice .
Fear shadowed her eyes . She knew what quarantine was from her home country after the war -and when her son caught polio- and when the family immigrated to Canada . Her daughter explained that no one was sick and that she should not worry ...big talk for a little girl . Since they had no phone , my friend's mother made a visit each evening for the first week to reassure herself that all was well . After that , once a week was enough . No one was ill and we were having a great time . We couldn't come in contact with people so we spent a lot of time in the bush at the Four Hills . It was great fun the whole duration .
Once weekly , my family ( now including my friend ) made the secret visit to the doctor on Wednesday evening with stool samples in official little canisters . No tests came back postive for anyone in my family , and my trace disappeared quickly . The extra two weeks were required by law .
Meanwhile , a day or two after I had shown positive , signposts appeared on the beach and all along the river streets banning swimming . Water tests had shown the water was unsafe for use . Fish from the river could not be consumed . Eventually , the source of the contamination was found to be a trickle from the pulp mill holding pond that found it's way into a creek , on to the river . Anyone who used the river was at risk . No one knew exactly what it was in town and no one else was quarantined . Just us . Very few even knew that .