text from: Jukes, Thomas. 1962. "A Town in Harmony." Chemical Week (Aug. 18): 5.


A Town in Harmony

"There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed in harmony with its surroundings."

New Yorker, June 16, '62, p.35.

The harmony of all life in this idyllic town followed a biological balance in Nature, a balance which man had not yet learned to disturb by drastic intervention on his own behalf.

As the sun went down, the buzzing of mosquitoes could be heard in the town; the malaria parasites in their salivary glands were about to continue their life cycle in the red blood cells of human victims.

The last slanting rays of the sun lingered on the small headstones in the town graveyards. Here slept the children who had perished from diphtheria, scarlet fever and whooping cough. Beside them lay the bodies of those who had lived and died in harmony with proliferant typhoid germs. These bacteria, uninjured by chlorine or antibiotics, teemed in the limpid stream that ran at the edge of town. It flowed through meadows where grazed cows beneath whose hairy flanks swarmed trillions of tuberculosis organisms, waiting for their milky ride that would take them to the lungs of the townspeople.

Life for these folks was a struggle with unrelenting Nature. Somc of them, including the Carney family, had fled from Jreland at the time of the potato famine, when a fungus disease had turned the food supply to a stinking black slime, so that many people had perished from starvation and from diseases resulting from starvation.

Famine had not laid its hand on the New World, but farmers knew what it meant to see a good field of wheat flattened by stem rust and the Hessian fly, a scabby and wormy apple crop lying on the ground; to see rows of young corn destroyed by cutworms and wireworms, pigs dead from hog cholera, and Canada thistles choking out the oats as the white, fluffy seeds sailed on the breeze to the next pasture.

It had been a warm afternoon, and a hush had settled on the grocery store. Faint sounds could be heard; a friendly rat gnawing in the cellar; the rustle of weevils in the cracker barrel; the high-pitched buzz of flies that were struggling in the sticky festoons hanging from the ceiling, and the stealthy patter of the cockroaches that darted across the floor.

Yes, life was in harmony with its surroundings. The women who, a century later, might have been writers of science fiction horror stories, were too busy with their housework to read humor magazines. They were squashing black beetles; beating the clothes moths out of the winter woolens; scraping the mold from the fatback pork; and wondering if they could afford the luxury of a chicken for their Sunday dinner.

(Contributed by Thomas H. Jukes, Agricultural Division, American Cyanamid Co.,
Princeton, N.J.)