PAT NEAL: The anti-vaxxers

BY NOW, I think we’ve all had it up to here with know-it-all newspaper columnists spewing about vaccines.

Chances are you’re either for or against it.

I’ve been vaccinated for one thing or another my entire life, starting with the polio vaccine.

Polio was once one of the most feared, highly contagious diseases in the United States, causing more than 15,000 cases of paralysis a year.

Starting in the 1950s, vaccines were developed that eradicated polio.

I still have the scar of that shot on my shoulder. Not that I am a big fan of needles or shots, but I’ve made a habit of getting every vaccine they sell.

So, when I had a chance to volunteer to administer vaccines in the neighborhood, I jumped at the chance. That wasn’t smart, but there’s no vaccine for stupid.

The patients were virulent anti-vaxxers who went into hiding the minute they figured out what was going on. They were faster, stronger and knew the lay of the land much better than I did.

With hundreds of acres of swamps and spruce thickets to hide in, it took a long time just to find them. Once we did, they were hot and cranky from wearing their winter fur coats on the hottest day of the spring.

Convincing them to march straight into the corral and get vaccinated was tough.

I know what you’re thinking.

Research shows that most people believe that beef comes from Styrofoam packages in the supermarket.

They have no idea beef comes from cows on a farm and the long dusty trail it takes to get the cows from the farm to the Styrofoam.

If they had any idea the amount of work and worry, not to mention the financial and physical risks, it takes to raise beef, they might not complain about how much it costs. But they do. At which point, I suggest to people raise cows themselves.

This is not a decision to take lightly. Read on.

Another common misconception is that cows are slow and stupid. They are neither.

If you have ever tried to keep them behind a fence, you would know that.

Cows are definitely faster than people and if you have ever tried to match wits with them, you would know that cows are as smart as they need to be.

As a kid, I always wanted to be a cowboy, but I thought that meant riding the range on my faithful horse.

Cowboying in the rainforest involves wading through bottomless swamps, blackberry thickets and shintangles while trying to convince the cows into the corral.

Then we had to persuade them into a narrow chute where the vaccines could be administered.

Fortunately, I had a Star Wars light saber sword. That’s what I told the cows anyway. I lied.

Actually, it was just a long, white length of plastic pipe I’d convinced the cows was an elegant weapon of a more civilized age.

You don’t hit the cows with the light saber, no. That would be cruel. Merely waving it back and forth can convince them down the right path — starting with the matriarch of the herd.

She’s 1,500 pounds of motherhood. Once she went in the chute and got her medicine, the rest of the herd followed with very little trouble.

That’s until the bull, who weighed a ton, noticed his lady friends were leaving him behind.

He became anxious, with little regard for the light saber, lifting one of the heifers off the ground just by shaking his head.

Then, he waddled past without crushing me.

It was good to be alive.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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