Oklahoma's only anthrax victim talks

Monday, October 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma has only had one confirmed case of anthrax, and it was almost 40 years ago. News on Six reporter Heather Brooker talked with the 94 year-old man who lived to tell about it in an exclusive report.

It was a time when women came to the door to greet their sweethearts just in time for lunch. The year was 1957. And Haskell Shorter was helping his fellow farmers with the worst outbreak of Anthrax in Oklahoma history. "Only the cattle had come down with it. And there had been 2 or 3 outbreaks of it had been traced back to that general area." Anthrax had infected and killed hundreds of cattle in northeastern Oklahoma. And Haskell Shorter stopped to help a veterinarian examine a cow when he ended up in the middle of the mess. "Where I got it the veterinarian was posting the cow to see what she had died of and they needed some help so I rolled up my sleeves and helped him and came out the loser."

He says his arm started to turn black and crusty, a sign something was wrong. "I went to my doctor and told him you have your first case of anthrax." And by all accounts he was the only case at that time, and has been the only case since. He says the Anthrax was easily treated, and he's been living life to the fullest ever since.

And he thinks other Oklahomans should follow his example. "Don't worry about something until it happens. And then you can worry." Now in his twilight years as he calls them, Haskell and his best girl Imogene aren't worried about catching Anthrax, but making each other smile. "I wish we could've met then instead of now."

He says he considers himself blessed instead of lucky, and he knows someone else had different plans for him, Anthrax or not. "It's not luck it's what he had planned on, pure and simple."

Shorter says his secret to living a long, healthy life, twice a month he eats something that comes out of the ocean.