I don't know what I've had but apparently there has been an epidemic of it across the Sunbelt. Just about everyone I've talked to in the last few weeks has either had or knows someone who has had a nasty upper respiratory infection that refuses to go away.

So far, I've missed two business meetings and three fishing trips because of this viral scourge.

It's been like a bad cat you can't get rid of. Every time you think you've given the thing to someone who lives far enough away from home that it will never find its way back, it shows up again on your doorstep, hungry and demanding.

My malady started the week before Christmas. I assumed it was just a bad cold and, sure enough, in about three days I was better. I thought. Two days after Christmas it hit again, with a vengeance. Sinuses ached. My nose was stuffy. I had no energy (even less than usual). I felt bad enough to consult a doctor, who gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to cure sinusitis. He nixed my plan to fish on Friday. I took all the pills, even after they gave me some vile gastric side effects. I'll spare you the details.

I was better before I swallowed the last pill and felt completely comfortable attending the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Nashville. Had a good week: no sinus trouble, no runny nose, no aches — until I got on the plane to come home.

This second bout started with a scratchy throat and a cough. By the time I deplaned in Dallas I was hacking pretty good. It was late Friday afternoon, too late to see a doctor. I had planned to go fishing the next day. Didn't happen. I called Ted about seven in the morning and said, don't come, I'm staying in bed.

I had chills, fever, a nasty cough, sinus pain, and general miserableness. I was pitiful. So I went back to the doctor, who diagnosed me with a viral infection, prescribed some over-the-counter medicines to help with the symptoms, suggested pain relievers for the fever, and recommended plenty of fluids and rest.

I rested for a day or two and then felt much better, so I went back to work and did quite well for about 10 days. Then it hit again.

Started with a sore throat this time. Then the chills and fever hit again. I had to cancel a meeting in Lubbock and went back to the doctor to make certain I didn't have pneumonia or the Arkansas plague. They checked me for flu, even though I'd had the shot. Negative on flu. Still a viral infection. The Doctor said to take more over-the-counter drugs, more pain relievers, try an inhaler and drink plenty of liquids, especially hot tea. And get plenty of rest. By this time I was tired of resting and had missed yet another fishing trip.

I am convinced that viral infections will be the downfall of civilization as we know it.

As of now, I feel better than I have since late December. I even went fishing over the weekend (I was rusty and caught only two.), but I'm not yet comfortable enough to declare myself cured. I'm constantly afraid I'll hear that plaintive meowing from the back door and realize it's back.