PAT NEAL: The Quarantine Chronicles: The Boomer Remover

IT WAS A day I’ll never forget. I remember it like it was yesterday. Maybe it was yesterday.

How would I know? After a month of staying at home in quarantine, you tend to lose track of time when the boundaries of the known universe constrict into a small world of isolation, privation and poverty.

The locals have always prided themselves on how tough they are when dealing with tough times, and there’s no time like the present to demonstrate that time-honored truism.

I’ve never been a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full person. I’ve just been glad I had a glass.

When the stay-at-home order came down, I was glad I had a home. Little suspecting it was already too late for some of us. I thought it would be a good time to get caught up on some of the more disgusting chores I had been putting off all winter, like cleaning out the bait cooler.

That was something I had been ignoring since the middle of February, when bait was no longer allowed on our rivers. That left me with a cooler full of rotting fish eggs and sand shrimp congealing in the warm spring sun.

That is not usually a job for the faint-hearted. The funny thing was, when I opened the cooler, I could not smell a thing.

That should have been a clue. When you can’t smell a cooler full of rotten shrimp, you could have the coronavirus.

The funny thing was, just looking in that cooler made me feel a little queasy, which was odd. I usually have an iron gut that allows me to consume the offal my clients bring out on the river for lunch.

Here’s another clue: If your stomach starts gurgling like you just drank a gallon of cheap beer, and you haven’t been drinking, you could have the coronavirus.

About that time, health experts warned us not to touch our face. That’s when my face started itching and twitching like I had just sniffed a pile of black pepper.

Here’s another clue: When your eyes turn red and start tearing up like you’re watching the end of “Old Yeller” for the first time, you could have the coronavirus.

When your body starts aching all over like you’ve been on a 40-mile hike, but you haven’t gotten out of bed in a week, you could have the coronavirus.

When the fever hits and you’re laying there soaked to the skin and life is not fun, you really could have the coronavirus, even if it’s not confirmed by a test.

Also known as the “Boomer Remover,” because older people tend to be more susceptible, the coronavirus has a wide range of symptoms. The most amazing thing about it is that some people can get it and die while others can carry it without any symptoms, not even knowing they have it, and infect the rest of the population.

Those of us in the middle who have survived this virus are not likely to be joining one of the mobs protesting the stay-at-home orders. We are just trying to heal up and count our blessings.

The Boomer Remover is not all bad if you survive it. The virus has a way of showing you who your friends are. You’ll want to remember and hang on to them.

And I will never complain about a slow day’s fishing, traffic or the weather again.

So, please beware of the Boomer Remover. The life you save could be your own.


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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