Editor’s Call: Getting Old Stinks

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Don’t let preventable aches and pains hold you back this fall


By Jim Spencer

If you were one of the numerous trappers I visited with at this summer’s National Trappers Association convention in Escanaba, Mich., you probably heard me griping about having a backache. I came down with it the first day of the convention — a deep ache in my left backstrap muscle. Nobody has ever accused me of being stoic, and I told everybody who’d stand still for it how bad my back was hurting.

Other than complaining a lot, though, I didn’t think much about it. Ever since that bad car wreck back in ’74, I’ve had recurring bouts of back pain. This time, it was a little higher up the back than usual, but the pain was the same.

Anyway, a day or two later, a lovely stripe of water blisters developed on my ribs, starting on my back and running around my left side, under my arm, to my sternum. It looked like somebody had swiped me with a paint brush loaded with battery acid, and I don’t know which was worse, the back pain, which had followed the rash around my rib cage, or the itching and burning of the rash itself.

Some of you have no doubt already made the diagnosis, but nobody ever accused me of being quick on the uptake, either, so it took another day or two for me to figure it out. I’d come down with a dandy case of shingles. Jill and I had planned to spend a week or two in Canada after the convention, but I was feeling so bad we scrapped that plan and crippled on back to Arkansas, where I’ve been gobbling aspirin, acetaminophen and hydrocodone pills like they were M&Ms. The rash is about gone now, but more than a month after the convention, I’m still hurting like I’ve been beat up in a bar fight.

The point of all this is a humanitarian one. If you’re 50 or older, and most trappers these days are, I have some heartfelt advice: Go get the shingles shot! If you had chicken pox when you were a kid (and almost all of us older, pre-vaccine folks have had them), you have the shingles virus lurking dormant in your nerve cells, waiting for some unknown trigger to turn them loose.

And trust me on this, folks, you do not want this stuff to get turned loose. I used to think I was a pretty tough old codger, but shingles taught me otherwise. I ain’t tough at all. That car wreck I mentioned back in 1974 was the only thing that’s ever kept me off the trapline for more than a day or two in more than a half-century, but I’m pretty sure if this had happened in November or December instead of midsummer, it would have sidelined me.

It might sideline me yet, for that matter. Jury’s still out on that one. The doc tells me some shingles sufferers have the nerve pain for years after the rash goes away, and while it seems to me the pain isn’t as bad as it was, there are times when I’m not so sure. There’s still a good bit of time before the opener, but it’s gonna have to get better than this before I get very active stringing steel.

Aches and pains are a normal part of getting older, we all know that. But there are aches and pains we can’t do anything about, and then there are those we have some control over. Shingles falls into that latter category. Again, if you’re 50 or older and have had chicken pox, do yourself a favor and go get the vaccine. There are too few trapping seasons left to take a chance on losing one.

Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.
TR_20141001.pdf This column appeared in the October 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue. You can pick up a copy of the digital issue on www.ShopDeerHunting.com.

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