Let’s talk about Benjamin Jesty. Most people haven’t heard of him, and I hadn’t until recently. I did a little additional research after reading, “The Great Influenza” by John M. Barry. As the name implies, it documents the history of the 1918 flu pandemic.

I grabbed this book from our library because I kept hearing about that pandemic, but didn’t know any details other than it killed millions worldwide. The book discusses a lot of epidemiology that, frankly, goes over my head. But it mentions a historical fact I didn’t know: A rural English farmer figured out how to fight smallpox decades before scientists. Enter Mr. Jesty.

The story goes that the dairy farmer in Dorset, England, worried about his family catching smallpox. He had the inspired (or disgusting) idea of harvesting “material” from lesions of cows infected with cowpox, and scratching it into the arms of his wife and children. This was 1774, and Jesty had heard from old wive’s tales that dairymaids who had cowpox as an occupational hazard didn’t seem to get smallpox — even in close exposure to sick people. Cowpox and smallpox have enough in common that getting sick with the former — a relatively mild disease in humans — protected people from getting the latter, a much more serious disease. Jesty and his family survived the pandemic of his time thanks to his clever experiment.

By the time you read this, I’ll have my second and final Covid-19 vaccine dose. I, for one, look forward to getting back to a (slightly altered, but relatively) normal life. Why do I write about vaccines to a drilling audience? Good question. To answer the “why,” I want to talk to folks in the audience who may hold some wariness about getting vaccinated. You know who you are, and I hope you hear me out.

Readers know by now that I work in a home office. My biggest challenges come down to deadline stresses, posture and occasional computer glitches. This experience ranges far afield from the experiences of many in The Driller’s audience. Your challenges dwarf mine. Time and budget overruns can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in rig hours. Plus, if I divert attention from my laptop for the wrong second, I won’t get a struck-by injury.

My point is, people attracted to drilling as a profession likely have more in common with Jesty than myself: rugged, self-reliant, inventive, unafraid of a little managed risk, fiercely protective of their families. I know from experience that some folks cut from that cloth have kneejerk reactions to “experts” and “scientists.” No, their gut tells them. If that’s you, I urge you to think of Jesty. He took a small risk to protect his family from a much bigger risk.

I write this between my first and second shot. The first made me sick as a dog. Trust me when I say I didn’t look forward to the second. When you get your shots, expect aches, nausea, drowsiness, headaches or, like me, the whole menu. While I recovered, I didn’t think of whether I had bought into egg-headed science or made some political statement. I thought of the small risk I’d taken— getting a vaccine that, worryingly, went through approval like berries through a goose — to reduce the larger risk the pandemic has on my family and community.

Now, if I haven’t made my case and you still feel hesitant about getting your shots, remember there are worse things than getting one of the several Covid-19 vaccines — like getting stuck with a rusty barn nail covered in cow pus.

What do you think? Are you planning to get vaccinated, or do you still have reservations? Send an email to verduscoj@bnpmedia.com.

Stay safe out there, drillers.

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