And in rebuttal to the Hodge Wall Street Journal piece, Honoria Begone writes:Editor:
I direct my remarks to the hard-core reenactors, those profiled recently in the Wall Street Journal, especially Mr. Robert Lee Hodge, who naively expressed the desire to include in his first-person impression a case of head lice. Obviously, Mr. Hodge has never before encountered this scourge. I have, and I recommend to all of you who feel this may be the ultimate authenticity experience: do yourself a favor and pass on this one.
One Friday morning, the school called. My daughter, with her waist-length hair, had a case of lice. Her sister was also infested before we realized that we were playing host to the parasites. Our battle ensued with a dousing of insecticidal cream rinse--which is touted to kill 99% of the lice and their eggs. (I later found out that it is actually only twenty to eighty percent effective, and that the lice are quickly developing a resistance to the shampoos and rinses.) After the rinse, each family member had to have his or her hair fine-combed to remove the nits and dead lice. This took hours.
Then, all bedding, recently worn clothing, and toys had to be washed in hot water, dry cleaned, or sealed in plastic bags for two weeks. The entire house had to be vacuumed thoroughly. Heads had to be examined daily for two weeks to guard against re-infestation. This work entailed thirteen loads of laundry and over $100 in cleaning bills, vacuum bags, carpet cleaning and cream rinse ($14 a bottle). I was completely exhausted, and had to really dig for the straight dope on these bugs. There's very little information out there--and no guarantee that someone in my family wouldn't be infested again! I consider myself lucky to have lived for 36 years before encountering them. Vacuuming is the most effective way to guard against re-infestation--but you "hard core" people wouldn't want to use that modern remedy, would you? Perhaps you could do as my great-grandmother did when my grandmother got them--douse your heads in kerosene and fine-comb them.
Before I am accused of being a farb, I want you to know that I draw the line at nylon bridesmaid hats, Diane Von Furstenberg designer eyeglasses, and Spiedel watch bands with Civil War garb. In fact, I shudder at visible brassiere lines under period bodices, and have ripped the nylon lace from the hem of my hoopskirt. But forgoing sunscreen, say, just because it wasn't available during the 1860s is at the very least unwise.
The idea that someone would welcome head lice, pubic crabs, dysentery, malnutrition, or heat stroke in order to more authentically experience the Civil War borders on the masochistic. Let alone the hardships and difficulties such extremism would visit upon the reenactor's family. If Mr. Begone ever deliberately contracted and brought home head lice, or sought to soak his buttons in urine (nice, to see a jar of that sitting on the kitchen counter), he wouldn't have to worry about his hands not having that authentic, rigor mortal, bloated look.
Honoria (Mrs. Jonah) Begone