Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography Page: 87
This book is part of the collection entitled: Rescuing Texas History, 2010 and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries .
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their host coughed and swallowed, they were started on their
way to their final goal, the small intestine. There they caught
hold, sucked blood, grew, and reproduced copiously.
First their human host got the "ground itch," a terribly itchy
eruption on the feet. As time went on the victim of ancylosto-
miasis, as the disease is called, grew thin. His skin became dry
and coarse, his expression stuporous. He looked and stared at
passers-by like an idiot. Then, as the worms devoured more and
more red blood cells at their suction stations, a secondary anemia
developed, causing a swelling of the abdomen, face, feet, and
ankles. Finally, with the blood-producing tissues exhausted,
there was a primary anemia and death.
One of the curious features of this hookworm affliction is the
victim's unnatural appetite. He will eat dirt, resin, rotten wood,
wool. Bonanza sufferers ate clay. Time and time again as I rode
about I saw where the clay eaters had robbed the chinking from
their cabins. They ate it like so much caramel or toffee. The
people of Central Texas looked on the clay eaters as degenerate
white trash, fit only for contumely. I, myself, though I strove to
be objective, found them repugnant. Whole families simply
stared, in an edematous trance. Yet even then the Rockefeller
Sanitary Commission was beginning to track down the disease to
its source, and find both curative and preventive measures. To
this day I regret having been unaware of this most admirable
A discouraging aspect of medical practice in Bonanza was the
almost total absence of money except after the cotton harvest.
And perhaps an even greater annoyance, I think, was the in-
ordinate amount of folklore with which I had to contend.
Nostrums were endless, unsolicited advice came thick and
fast. Whenever word got around that someone had fallen sick
two or three grannies were sure to clap on their faded sun-
bonnets, hitch up their skirts, and like mason bees head straight
for the bed of pain. In midwifery they did much good, but not
in other cases. Malaria, for instance, was one of the commonest
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Atkinson, Donald Taylor. Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography, book, 1958; New York. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143566/m1/99/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.