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Tales of a North Park Cabin Fever Survivor

Peggy Simson Curry wasn’t exaggerating when she titled her novel about North Park “So Far From Spring”. To say winters in the Park are lengthy and extreme is an understatement, and Cabin Fever is a very real affliction, which medical science knows very little about. It affects nearly all North Park residents in one form or another, and with different severity.

These are a select few documented cases, which the New England Journal of Medicine has returned to me every year with suggestions such as: You’re not a medical professional, Please stop submitting these, and Cease and desist.

My earliest memory of this malady, came from my Grandma Jo Brownlee. Her symptoms included insisting not only was April Fool’s Day a REAL holiday, it was her FAVORITE holiday, while treating her very suspecting family to endure milk filters in pancakes, exlax in the coffee, or possibly cotton balls in the biscuits. Grandma Jo was one of the famous cooks of legendary status from the North Park area, but April Fool’s Day was the single day of the year we were actually scared to consume anything coming out of her kitchen. I learned the meaning of “You won’t know when or what, but you will know why”. I still fondly recall the joyous laughter of Grandma, knowing she got one of us, and Grandad’s “DAMMIT JO!” in reply.

Cabin Fever first struck me when I was around the age of 10. Knowing what an important holiday April Fool’s Day was to his mother-in-law, my dad woke me before the crack of dawn with orders to smear honey on the toilet seat before my mom woke up. He went off to milk the cows, leaving the weight of the entire holiday on my capable shoulders. I quietly searched the entire kitchen and to my dismay, found we were completely out of honey. I quickly formed a new plan and substituted the next best thing my 10-year old brain could come up with: Marshmallow cream. Which reminds me, I should probably call mom to see if she has forgiven me yet, and ask how the scars are.

Having a birthday in April, I received gifts which were more jokes aimed at my parents, than actual gifts for me. I was taught to never look a gift horse in the mouth, which is about the only animal I didn’t receive. I loved the goat from my Aunt Patty, and the pregnant ewe and pregnant rabbits to and from my dear friend, Robin. The exchange of gestating animals ended when Grandad Bob finally blew his top and said “NO MORE LIVE ANIMALS, DO YOU TWO UNDERSTAND ME?” Robin and I nodded our heads in agreement, and she proceeded to wrap up a dead mummified barn cat for that year’s birthday. (Thank you Robbie. I told you I was going to write about that someday…)

Grandad brought that one on us. He didn’t mean to bring about the others. He had a patch of land next to the highway which was losing hay to sagebrush a little more every year, so he tore it up and threw some wild oat seed in the loosened ground. The shoots came up very bright green and prompted the posting of a billboard which read “BROWNLEE’S PUMPKIN AND PICKLE PATCH”.

I’m not certain which of his “Friends” pulled that one, but I do know when we introduced Simmental and Maine Anjou breeds into our herd, “Jack” who may have dealt auto parts and “Gary” who may have dealt building supplies, took out a pricey half page ad in the newspaper to advertise the Brownlee “exotics” (see picture). Not about to sit back and take that, my dad called the newspaper, posing as one of the perpetrators and asked them to run the expensive half-page ad again because it was so much fun. Just send the bill to the original party.

While the majority of the time, we tried to keep the maladies out of the newspapers, there were times the public needed to get involved.

The Great Reindeer Kidnapping Caper Mom and dad built 8 tiny reindeer out of hay bales and positioned them into different poses every year. They had Santa in his sleigh, with the deer taking off from the top of the haystack, when the poor little reindeer were kidnapped. Now, I don’t mean they were stolen. Not with the locals suffering mightily from Cabin Fever. NO, no… They were kidnapped complete with a ransom note, video tape, police investigation, and a classic frame job. The video featured a man dressed in a pink prom dress, very similar to my cousin, Moana’s last prom dress now that I think about it… anyway, his voice was altered and his face obscured with a bunny mask so he could not be identified. He demanded 100 pennies, minted before the next year, and a peanut butter sandwich with the crust cut off, delivered to the library if we wanted the deer back in one piece. Or else. He added that they were very serious people who were not to be taken lightly, as he adjusted his pretty pink sequined dress to the make sure his tattoo’s were not showing. The sheriff investigated. The editor interviewed my parents, who said they would not negotiate with terrorists. The deer were later released on the Superintendents front porch in an obvious frame job. He didn’t even own a prom dress.

A classic symptom of Cabin Fever is a very North Park thing called “making up your own fun”. It was boredom, cold, and the desire to do something that led my Uncle Ron Sessions to create the Frosty Pines Frozen Golf Tournament, now the Ron Sessions Memorial Frozen Golf Tournament. It raises money for the local Lions Club and is the most fun you can have at 10 below zero on a reservoir with golf clubs and 72 teams.

I hope this sheds some light on the Cabin Fever epidemic from the examples, which the statute of limitations has run out on. For medical science purposes, I can give you others in a few years. If Texas refuses extradition.


Connie was a few years older than me in school, but I idolized her as our high school mascot. Little does she know, my friend Robin and I spent a whole summer doing fundraisers to purchase a new mascot uniform so we could be just like her! FUNNY is an understatement, as well as the life of the party and an absolute joy to be around! Connie is the reason I "like" Facebook and the round off banter that exists is always in good fun, in true North Park humor. While she resides in Texas now, we know her heart will always be in North Park. Your appreciation gift of a cooler brimming in snow will be on it's way. Thank you for contributing Connie; you've kicked off our "Humor To Live Here" fiesta well!

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