Face masks. For decades I have worn a mask for many hours, all day—in pursuit of recreation. While it may seem an improvement on MY face, it also helps disguise this would be assassin of wild turkeys, wily whitetails, sneaking squirrels, and furry fur bearers that is. There are roughly 350,000 other archery hunters like me, plus the varmint hunters in Wisconsin, and I’d bet a cup of coffee that most of them wear a mask for hours at a time at least occasionally.
I have been observing people relating to masks—including myself—during the pandemic. One thing I am getting pretty good at is recognizing friends and acquaintances in masks. You can tell a lot from the eyes and profile. El and I started out wearing red and blue bandanas; when we went into the bank or a store, I’d jokingly call her Sundance. Ha, ha—little did we know. Now Ellen and I have black cloth face masks, some white medical type masks, several pull-up gaiters, and my favorite, our cloth Green Bay Packers masks. We have seen some creative masks, like the ones with the wearer’s lower face printed on it. There are masks with favorite team names or rock stars—like the Rolling Stones lick and the Beatles printed on a black field. I’ve seen logos. I saw a Browning firearm mask and a Harley-Davidson mask and a Mountain Dew logo mask. Peace and love tie dye masks with colorful ‘60s swirls masks abound. Flowers and pets—one I saw puts a dog’s snout and smiling teeth on the wearer. Mickey Mouse was on one. One of my favorites was a reddish mask with an old-time cartoon face from the Goon, an adversary of Popeye the Sailor Man, with a long nose and whiskers on it. It is startling at first but then funny.
The new habits we have adopted to survive in this mess can be amusing. I have learned and named some moves like the “Forgot My Mask Spin Move” and the “Oh Cuss (not my exact word) Careen” as I swerve around to head back to the car, or the “Oh (very bad four letter word)! Forgot My Mask Again Fade” before backtracking to the car. There is the, “Not Again Skid to a Halt Move” just in front of the car. I have observed people stalking away from a store door muttering to themselves and then prowling back with a mask on and maybe muttering out of sight behind it. I even saw one guy who got to the door of the hardware store and realized he didn’t have a mask; he turned around and angrily stomped back to his truck, and then drove away. Done it all myself, in fact.
There are those who think that a mask dangling down around the chin is doing something to protect themselves or others. Not sure about that. I ran into an acquaintance the other day in a store who wasn’t even wearing the required mask. “Oh, I got it right here.” It was sticking out of his pocket. Duh. If you are like me, you can’t wait to peel that mask off outside after an hour of grocery shopping or hanging around the clinic. The other day we were masking up outside of Festival when a large masked man carrying bags of groceries in both arms tipped his face back and started wiggling his chin until his mask dropped down. Great move I thought! I have practiced it with several different types of masks and not been able to duplicate the move; my pudgy face isn’t flexible enough, I guess.
History tells us that back in 1918 during the deadly flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans, they closed schools and businesses, banned public gatherings and isolated and quarantined those who were infected. Many communities recommended or required that citizens wear face masks in public – and this, not the lockdowns, drew the most ire from the citizenry.
The adage goes something like, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Over 100 years later, with many advances in science and medicine and a history of Americans coming together and working together after World War II to get the country back on track, eradicating polio, dealing with the horrors of HIV AIDS and the H1N1 flu and the 911 attacks, one might think that in 2021 we might be able to do what is required now to end this new threat. Medical experts say widespread acceptance of cloth face coverings and social distancing could help to stop history from repeating itself. Well, that said, history’s attempt at a repeat seems to be winning, what with nearly 360,000 Americans dying from COVID-19 and sadly months to go for all of us to be vaccinated.
What I am saying is, wear the damned mask in public. This isn’t about rights or freedoms; it is about our responsibility to our family and fellow man. Your grandmother or brother or mom or dad could get the virus and it could be your fault. For a lot of people, this ain’t your grandmother’s pandemic—it is, by the numbers, much deadlier. The sooner we get rid of the virus, we can get back to “normal.”