Tuesday, January 28, 2020

John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays -- Part Three

Capt. Jack's Pistols 
Colt Paterson Revolver (1836 - 1847)
When we left off on part two, we were talking about how Capt. Jack Hays was a great leader of the Texas Rangers while fighting Indians. His excellence as a leader would follow him throughout his life. One of the things that made him a great leader was his emphasis on good training for his men. Besides holding classes on tactics of the Comanche and survival skills, he was known to have extensively trained his men to ride, shoot, and move as a single cohesive fighting force.

For me, I remember my days in the Marine Corps as an Infantryman. Yes, believe it or not, Rifleman (0311) was my "occupational skill" in the Corps. Among the aspects of my MOS that was emphasized during our training was our mission as a Marine Corps rifle squad. Our mission was to "locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel an enemy's assault by fire and close combat." Looking at things objectively, that seemed to be the mission Capt. Jack trained his men to do when he created a light mobile cavalry unit ready to take on an enemy of superior numbers.

As for those who say, the Indians should not have been a problem since we had better technology, weaponry, and tactics, keep in mind that the Comanche were not uneducated warriors. The Comanche were battle savvy and combat hardened. Over the years, they fought the Spanish, French, Mexicans, Texians, and the Americans. Their territory known as "Comancheria" was vast and the Comanche were feared by all including other tribes. The Comanche knew their terrain, had a much better knowledge of their natural resources such as locations of water, and their strategy of fighting was merciless and brutal. There was a reason they were known as the "Lords of the Plains."

This was who Capt. Jack and the Texas Rangers were up against. And looking at his orders to "Crowd them! Powder-burn them," one can only imagine the horrific close combat fighting that involved. To do so and come out alive takes discipline, a tremendous amount of courage, and knowing how to use the weapons that you have. It was known that the Rangers would charge into surprised Comanche, and open fire, but only after maneuvering into an advantageous position. They weren't stupid and knew Indian tactics. Because of their superior firepower, as the Comanche would flee, the Rangers were known to keep up the fight even when they were pursuing a larger retreating force.

In the case of Walker's Creek, that was that case of over 80 Comanche against 15 Rangers. Remember, besides himself, he only had 14 troops with him. Since it's believed that the Rangers had practiced unloading spent cylinders and replacing them with pre-loaded extra cylinders while on horseback, they were able to pour fire on the retreating Indians. at was the reason for the superior firepower that they poured out that day.

As for courage under fire, it's said that at one point in the fight Comanche War Chief Yellow Wolf tried to rally his men to launch a counter-attack, but Capt. Jack saw what was taking place. He shouted, "Any man with a load left, kill that Chief!" And with that, Ranger Robert Gillespie is said to have instinctively closed with Chief Yellow Wolf and fired. Gillespie's round struck the Chief in the head.

The Colt Paterson and then later the Colt Walker in the hands of a Texas Ranger became "The Great Equalizer." It is said that using his Paterson Colts that he purchased in 1843, John Coffee Hays fought in many uneven battles. The Paterson Colt is a .36 caliber five-shot pistol with an effective range of 65 yards.

While the U.S. Army considered the Paterson to "fragile and prone to malfunction" to use, the Republic of Texas put them to good use when Capt. Jack armed his entire company of Texas Rangers with surplus pistols from the defunct Texas Navy. The Paterson Colts that were still serviceable were issued to Texas Rangers, each man being issued two or three revolvers.

Captain Jack Hays and Ranger Samuel Walker became major supporters of Colt revolvers. In fact, it was Walker's experiences at Walker's Creek under Captain Jack that taught him the value of a multi-shot pistol. Later, Walker met Samuel Colt and proposed improvements, including a stationary trigger and guard. Colt increased the number of rounds to six, beefed it up to .44 caliber ball round, and credited Walker with the improvements. The new six-shot revolver was named the Walker Colt. Walker himself observed that the Walker revolver was "as effective as a common rifle at 100 yards and superior to a musket even at 200."

The Colt Walker Dragon pistol is a .44 caliber six-shot pistol with an effective range of 100 yards. Sam Colt himself presented John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays with Colt Walker Dragoon Pistol in December of 1847.

While I have no idea what ever happened to Capt. Jack's Colt Paterson revolvers, the Walker Colts that he used went up for auction in 2017. In fact, on December 10, 2017, Heritage Auctions listed a number of Capt. Jack's possessions for auction. Among those items was his Colt Civilian Model Walker Revolver and his Texas Model Walker Transition Dragoon Single Action Revolver.

John Coffee "Jack" Hays' Colt Civilian Model Walker Revolver

Of the approximately 100 Colt Civilian Model Walkers manufactured by Colt in 1847, the pistol was the first in the serial range of 1001 to 1100. Opening bid for the Colt Civilian Model Walker was $250,000. It closed at well over $310,000.







John Coffee "Jack" Hays Colt Walker Transition Dragoon Pistol

The second pistol up for auction was his Texas Model Walker Dragoon. Colt manufactured and assembled the shorter, lighter "Transition Dragoons" in Hartford, Connecticut, whereas the Paterson models were manufactured in Paterson, New Jersey -- thus their name Paterson. Capt. Jack's pistol has the word "Texas" with the five-point star representing Texian independence on it.

According to the auction information: "Cased Colt Presentation Whitneyville Hartford Transition Dragoon Revolver serial number 1166 inscribed, 'Col. John C. Hays Presented By Samuel Colt'... The engraved script presentation to Col. John C. Hays on the revolver's backstrap and case lid... This is the only known Transition Dragoon casing and unsurprisingly, has some unique characteristics. The casing is constructed of mahogany with dovetailed corners and glazed with a faux rosewood finish. This surface texture was a common technique in the nineteenth century and was used to simulate expensive rosewood veneer on all types of furniture objects. The interior of the partition casing is lined with a faded red fabric similar to later Colt casings and perfectly fitted to the revolver and accessories with no signs of alteration."




It's number is 1166, and it's engraved "Col. John C. Hays PRESENTED BY Samuel Colt". 

It was presented to Capt. Jack in December of 1847 in an inscribed wooden case. These pistols are believed to have been carried by Capt. Jack in the Mexican-American War, as San Francisco County Sheriff, and at Pyramid Lake.

When the auction in 2017 ended, his presentation pistol alone is said to have earned over $320,000. And by the way, firearms experts believe his pistol has seen much use and is the earliest known engraved Sam Colt presentation gun. Imagine that.

Tom Correa





Saturday, January 25, 2020

Firearm Terminology & Nomenclature: Lever Action

The Lever action is utilized in the design and function of rifles, shotguns and pistols. This illustration exhibits the primary characteristics of a rifle. Although most component parts are applicable in a revised configuration to both the shotgun and pistol categories, relatively few representative models exist in those categories.

-- This is per the ATF.

Firearm Terminology & Nomenclature: Slide/Pump Action


The Slide/Pump action is utilized in the design and function of rifles and shotguns. This illustration exhibits the primary characteristics of a rifle but most component parts are applicable in a revised configuration to the Pump/Slide Shotgun category.

-- This is per the ATF.

Firearm Terminology & Nomenclature: Top Break Action


The Top Break action is utilized in the design and function of rifles, shotguns and pistols. This illustration exhibits the primary characteristics of a shotgun but most component parts are applicable in a revised configuration to the rifle and pistol categories.


-- This is per the ATF website.

Firearm Terminology & Nomenclature: Self Loading Action (Semiautomatic)



The Self-loading action, also known as Semi-automatic, is utilized in the design and function of rifles, shotguns and pistols. This top illustration depict the primary characteristics of a rifle but most component parts are applicable in a revised configuration to both the shotgun categories. The lower illustration depicts the primary characteristics of a "semi-automatic" pistol.

-- This is per the ATF website

Firearm Terminology & Nomenclature: Bolt Action


The Bolt action is utilized in the design and function of rifles, shotguns and pistols including single shot and magazine-fed repeating models. This illustration exhibits the primary characteristics of a rifle, but most component parts are applicable in a revised configuration.

-- This is per the ATF website. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays -- Part Two

A Remarkable American Hero

John Coffee Hays was born on January 28th, 1817, at a place called Little Cedar Lick in Tennessee. His father was Harmon A. Hays who fought in the War of 1812. If you're wondering where his name came from, John Coffee was actually named after General John Coffee. The reason for this is that John Coffee Hayes was a second cousin of the General's wife.

In fact, General John Coffee married Mary Donelson. She was related to President Andrew Jackson's wife, Rachel Donelson Robards. So as for relatives, since President Andrew Jackson's wife Rachel was John Coffee Hayes' great aunt -- subsequently President Jackson was his great uncle. So yes, he was named after General John Coffee.

By the age of fifteen, he had moved to Mississippi and began to attend school to learn surveying. Surveying was not something taken up by those wanting to lead safe lives. It was an occupation that was dangerous and took a great deal of bravery. Great Americans such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln all started out as surveyors. For Hays, like Washington, his knowledge of the land and Indian fighting which he would learn surveying would later help him serving as a citizen soldier in Texas. In fact, he is said to later mix his knowledge of surveying into his Ranger career. He got most of his surveying education at Davidson Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.

By 1836, at the age of 19, he decided to join with the freedom fighters which Mexico saw as rebels fighting for Independence in Texas. Yes indeed, one man's freedom fighter is another man's rebel. Thankfully, John Coffee Hays was on the side of right at the time -- just as his entire life would be. It was that same year that he migrated to Texas. In 1836, he traveled to New Orleans and then entered Texas at Nacogdoches just in time to join the Texian troops under Thomas J. Rusk.

The Goliad Massacre was a horrible event that took place during the Texas Revolution. On March 27th, 1836, right after the Battle of Coleto, over 425 Texas prisoners of war were mercilessly executed by the Mexican Army in the town of Goliad, Texas. Those men were all part of the Texian Army of the Republic of Texas. The massacre was orders by General and President of Mexico Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It was carried out by Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla.

Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla ordered that the almost 445 Texian soldiers be marched out of Fort Defiance in three columns on the Bexar Road, San Patricio Road, and the Victoria Road, between two rows of Mexican soldiers. They were halted and then shot at point blank range. Those who were not killed instantly, and were only wounded, were clubbed and knifed to death. It is said that the entire Texian force was killed with the exception of 20 or so men who actually feigned death and then escaped to tell the story of what took place there.

Now, before people write to say that my spelling of Texan is wrong, "Texians" were White settlers of Mexican Texas which later became the Republic of Texas. Mexican settlers there during that era are referred to as "Tejanos." Modern day residents of Texas are known as "Texans."

As a part of Thomas J. Rusk's Texian troops, when John Coffee Hays' unit arrived in Goliad, it's said they were tasked with helping to bury those who massacred but weren't even given the respect of being buried. As for the carnage, the smell, the sight before them when they arrived, it probably resembled Hell itself. 

While some say Sam Houston appointed him as a member of a company of Texas Rangers because Houston is said to have known the Hays family from Tennessee, it is known that young John Coffee Hays also gave a letter of introduction to Sam Houston. That letter also served as a letter of recommendation from Hays's great uncle, then-President Andrew Jackson. Houston advised Hays to join a company of Rangers under Erastus (Deaf) Smith. Smith's unit was seeing service from San Antonio to the Rio Grande under orders from Col. Henry W. Karnes. 

It was during that time that John Coffee Hays is said to have tried to learn as much as he could about warfare and tactics used by the Indians. So by mid-1836, Hays was serving as a Ranger under Erastus "Deaf" Smith. During that time, one of the first skirmishes that he took part in was with the Mexican Cavalry where he assisted in the capture of Juan Sánchez. Some say it was because of his bravery and knowledge that he was appointed deputy surveyor of the Bexar District while a Ranger.

It should be noted that Jack Coffee Hayes became a Texas Ranger about the same time as others who would also become legendary Rangers. Those men were Ben McCulloch, John S. "Rip" Ford, and Sam Walker. Hays and the other three men are actually responsible for establishing the heroic rough and ready can-do fighting ethos of the Texas Rangers. John Coffee Hays gained a reputation for being very intelligent with a keen sense of tactical knowledge, a man who was a skilled horseman, a man with excellent skills with weapons available to him and his men at the time, all with great physical endurance suited for the rugged Texas terrain.

He was known to take his skills as a horseman, his skills with weapons, and his endurance of the hard Texas landscape, and inspire his Ranger unit. Showing his men that he was not all talk and in fact having always lead from the front, he inspired his men and made his unit excellent fighters. This was so much the case that his men were known as skilled horsemen. Later, his men would be known for their exception use of revolvers -- so much so that they were considered better than most.

In 1836, Connecticut-born gun manufacturer Samuel Colt received a U.S. patent for a revolver mechanism that enabled a pistol to be fired multiple times without reloading. To build such a pistol, Colt founded a company to manufacture his revolving-cylinder pistol.

Fighting at the time was using muzzle-loader rifle and pistols, and of course the bowie knife. It was well known at the time that Indians were not stupid fighters. Unlike Hollywood which depicts Americans Indians as uneducated in the ways of war, that's not the case. One example of how smart they were was their understanding the capability of their enemies. They knew that getting close to a Ranger and being able to charge him after he fired his muzzle-loader rifle and pistol meant that they could get to that Ranger before he reloaded.

Rangers using a multi-shot weapon, even though it would be a close range weapon, changed everything for the Rangers. Multi-shot pistols meant survival in situations where a Ranger is outnumbered. John Coffee Hays would make his legend in such a situation where it was close quarter fighter with just a pistol when he was completely outnumbered.

As citizen soldiers John Coffee Hays led the Rangers on a campaign against the Comanche in Texas. He rode with an Apache Chief named Young Flacco who led the charge into every battle with him, always inspiring other Rangers to do greatly. Flacco was a good friend of Hayes. Flacco is said to have stated, "Me and Red Wing aren't afraid to go to hell. But, Jack isn't afraid to go by himself." Some feel that's how Hays got the nickname "Devil Jack." 

 From 1840-46, he was given the title of Captain. And frankly, it's no wonder when you consider how truly tenacious an Indian fighter that he was. Imagine this, he engaged both the Comanches and Mexicans in a great number of skirmishes. Of course, it was at a battle at Enchanted Rock that made Hayes famous. It was there that he took on a group of Indians by himself. 

Enchanted Rock is a granite dome in southwestern Llano County about twenty miles north of Fredericksburg. Texans believe that the area is ripe with legends, both from the local Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. In fact, there are legends about human sacrifices being conducted there, and battles between tribes. Some say Enchanted Rock is where the ghosts of brave warriors now reside. 

Another legend tells of an Indian princess who committed suicide by throwing herself off the rock after witnessing her people slaughtered by an enemy tribe. It's said by some that her ghosts haunts that place. Then there's the Indian legend about the chief who is doomed to walk the summit as punishment for sacrificing his only daughter to the gods. It's said the indentations on the rock's summit are the chief's own footprints.

According to Texas lore, there is a story of a young Spanish soldier by the name of Don Jesús Navarro who rescued an Indian maiden named Rosa. The story goes that Navarro traveled from Monterrey to San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission in San Antonio in 1750. It was at the mission that Navarro met and fell in love with Rosa. She was the Christian daughter of Chief Tehuan a local tribe.

Not long after arriving, Comanche raided the mission and kidnapped Rosa. They were going to keep her as a slave, then they thought about selling her off for ransom, but finally decided to use her as a sacrifice to the spirits of Enchanted Rock since she was indeed the daughter of a chief. Navarro is said to have trailed them for more than 90 miles to Enchanted Rock. It was there that Navarro sneaked into there camp to rescue her. Legend says he killed the Comanche raiders and saved her just as she was about to be burned at the stake. It's a great legend.

Of course, a plaque near the summit of Enchanted Rock was put there by the State of Texas to commemorate a battle that took place there. That battle is said to be about a heroic episode in the life of Capt. John Coffee Hays when he was cut off by Comanche raiders from his company of Texas Rangers on a surveying trip in the fall of 1841. Cut off and alone, with rifle, pistol, and Bowie knife, Hays took refuge on Enchanted Rock and single-handedly held off the Comanche for three hours in a battle that ended when the frustrated Comanche finally decided to flee the scene.

Of course that wasn't the only time he was in a position where death seemed almost certain. On June 1st, 1844, at Walker's Creek, Capt. Jack and his Rangers were out numbered by a combination of Mexicans and Comanche. That all started when Capt. Jack left the Ranger headquarters which was in San Antonio  with fourteen men to scout the hills to the north and west. They were looking for a Comanche war party led by Yellow Wolf. He and his warriors had recently been raiding into Bexar County.

It's said that in the summer of 1844, Texas settlers in the gentle rolling country north of San Antonio were worried about Comanche raids. Captain Hays led a patrol of fourteen of his Rangers on a long patrol between the Pedernales and Llano Rivers. Capt. Jack's men were looking for any traces of the raiders who they believed came down from the open plains north of the Hill Country. The Rangers rode as far as the Pedernales River, then turned back and following the Pinta Trail to its crossing of the Guadalupe River. They camped there on June 9th.

While camped, Ranger A. Coleman who was on guard duty saw a group of Comanche following their trail. A moment later Ranger Noah Cheery called out, "Jerusalem, Captain, yonder comes a thousand Indians!" 

The Rangers quickly saddled and mounted up. The over 80 Comanche warriors actually disappeared into the same thicket which they were hoping to use as cover before springing an ambush. What the Comanche didn't know was that they were already seen. 

As the Rangers came within a few hundred yards of where the Comanche were hiding, about 20 or so warriors stepped out to challenge the Rangers to fight. Their lure didn't work as Capt. Jack knew the rest of the war party was still ready to pounce. Because the Rangers refused to take the bait, the rest of the Comanche war party tired of waiting and rode forward in line of battle. 

To the Comanches' rear ran a dry ravine, and beyond that rose a high hill covered with timber and brush, all strewn with rocks. The Rangers advanced while the Comanche fell back to take up a defensive position. From there, behind rocks and trees, the Comanche taunted the rangers in Spanish, all in the hopes of provoking the Rangers into a frontal assault on their position. It would have been suicide and the Rangers were smarter than that.  

Capt. Jack Hays was no fool. As many times before, he proved once again that he could read a battlefield. With that, he led his men around the hill, all the while being shielded by the ravine. When in position, he then lead his men and attacked the Comanche from the rear. Ranger Ben McCulloch wrote: "The fight for the hill top was soon hand-to-hand, and they took it rough and tumble." 

The rangers repulsed two counterattacks on their flanks, after which the Comanche fled the field and were pursued for three miles under heavy fire from the Rangers' revolvers. 

Capt. Jack ordered his men, "Crowd them! Powder-burn them!" 

Yes indeed, there is a reason that the Comanche called him "Devil Jack." And in the end, the hour-long battle resulted in Comanche casualties at anywhere from 20 to more than 50 killed and wounded. Yellow Wolf was among those killed. As for the Texas Rangers, they lost one man and four others were seriously wounded. Among the seriously wounded was famed Texas Rangers Samuel Walker and Robert A. Gillespie, both thrust through the body with lances. Both were not expected to live, but both survived and later become Ranger Captains in the Mexican War.

The Houston Morning Star characterized the Walker's Creek fight, while talking about Capt. Jack, as follows: "Unparalleled in this country for the gallantry displayed on both sides, its close and deadly struggle, and the triumphant success of the gallant partisan captain of the West." 

And by the way, it was the battle at Enchanted Rock and the one at Walker's Creek that really solidified the legend of Captain Hayes and the Texas Rangers. And something else, the battle is significant because it marked the first time that an entire Ranger company used Colt revolvers in combat against an enemy combatant. Comanche are said to have later complained that "the rangers had a shot for every finger on the hand."

We need to understand how that new technology played a vital role in winning those battles. The Colt revolver first won its reputation as a weapon that was perfectly suited for a mounted fighter like Texas Rangers. Using Paterson Colts purchased in 1843, John Coffee Hays commanded Rangers in several battles where they were simply outnumbered by Comanche warriors. As when he and his fourteen Rangers charged and forced the over 80 Comanche warriors to flee the battle at Walker's Creek in 1844, it was their bravery and their use of Colt multi-shot pistols that saved the day. 

Seeing the need fulfilled and his invention put to exemplary use by Texas Rangers, it's said that Sam Colt himself gave the Paterson Holster model Colt revolver the moniker "The Texas Arm." And while gun collectors today refer to the Paterson Holster model Colt as the Texas Model or Texas Paterson, the battle of Walker's Creek is what is depicted on the cylinder of the 1847 Walker Dragoon model Colt revolver. It's true, all of Walker and Dragoon model Colts carry a cylinder scene which in fact commemorated what became known as "Hays Big Fight."

Tom Correa

Thursday, January 16, 2020

John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays -- Part One

To begin this series on John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays, let's do something different and start by taking a look at his obituary as it appeared in The El Paso Daily Times, El Paso, Texas, May 2, 1883:

A Tribute to Colonel Jack Hays
San Francisco, April 25, 1883

One by one the old veterans of the Mexican war cross the silent river, and are mustered into the ranks of the immortal army. The last one to leave us was John Coffee Hays, better known as "Col. Jack Hays" who died at his residence near Piedmont, Alameda County, Califo, April 21st.

Col. Hays was a native of Tennessee, and 66 years of age. He had been ill and gradually failing for a long time, and passed away calmly, leaving to mourn his loss a widow, son and daughter, as well as hosts of friends in all parts of the country.

The funeral services were held at St. John's Episcopal church, Oakland, and were most impressive in their character, being conducted by rev. Dr. Akerly, of Oakwood, and Rev. Dr. Platt, of Rochester, NY

The music was rendered by the choir of Trinity church, San Francisco. The floral offerings were very elegant the most beautiful being a large star of white camellias representing the "Lone Star of Texas."  Another lovely offering was a tripod of three sabres, their hilts resting downward the blades entwined with white roses.

After the immense assembly had viewed the features of the dead hero for the last time in this world, the procession, composed of the "Mexican War Veterans" and "California Pioneers" with the Oakland Light Cavalry as guard of honor, formed in line and marched down to the tap of muffled drums to Mountain View cemetery.

The last prayers were read, the remains were solemnly committed to the ground the three volleys were fired, and the Veterans marched quietly away, leaving their gallant comrade in silent slumber till the silvery notes of the Resurrection bugle sound a glorious awakening.

Dear to the heart of every Texas is the memory of Col Jack Hays, and his name is familiar to every American school boy who reads the history of his country. Well do I remember when a boy, reading accounts of the valorous exploits of Col. Hays and his "Texan Rangers" little thinking that years afterward and thousands of miles from my native home it would be my privilege to attend his funeral.

John Coffee Hays needs no encomium from human lips or pen.

The struggle for Texan Independence, and the storming of Monterey attest to his bravery as a soldier, while his many deeds of charity and boundless generosity exhibit his Christian spirit.
He came to California in '49 and was the first sheriff of San Francisco, his appearance during the dark days of the vigilance committee being a most remarkable one.

By judicious management he acquired considerable wealth, and for a number of years lived in retirement at "Fernwood," his beautiful residence. In politics he was an active democrat, and was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention held at St. Louis.

--end article by J.G.H, The El Paso Daily Times, El Paso, Texas, May 2, 1883.

So what makes others write such a wonderful tribute? Well, fact is John Coffee Hays was a man who garnered a great deal of admiration and respect during his life. He was not like many Old West legends who were all brag and tall tale. He was not some sort of Hollywood creation. 

Hollywood has skirted the facts about the lives of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Wild Bill Hickok for almost a hundred years. And frankly, they have done us all a disservice by refusing to tell the true story of their lives. Of course, they can't fully be blamed for taking the bait that others have bit on, especially since many Old West figures themselves actually helped to fabricate their own reputations through lies and unfounded tales of skill and bravery.

That doesn't apply to John Coffee Hays because the details of his deeds are factual and above reproach. Fact is there is no need to deal in exaggerations, conjecture, falsehoods, or out and out lies when looking at his life. He is one of our Old West heroes who really deserves every bit of his well-known reputation. It is very clear why he was held in such high esteem during his life. 

Among his fellow Texas Rangers, he was known as "Captain Jack." There was never a need to print fake stories that couldn't be corroborated, witnessed, or sworn to, when it cane to the heroic acts and deeds of Captain Jack. To say his peers admired and respected him for his bravery, courage, fighting skills, and knowledge of warfare would be an understatement. 

Fact is, he really did join in the battle for Texas Independence, lead men into battle, trained and inspired other Texas Rangers, fought the Comanche single-handed and lived through it, used pistols in warfare to their maximum potential, actually went to war with Mexico, served as the first sheriff of that wicked city on the Barbary Coast, dealt with the largest vigilante group in it's day, and much more. 

John Coffee Hays was the real deal, and facts about his life supersede any of the unsubstantiated myths that others depend on. But because my small blog cannot properly list everything about him in one sitting, I'll try to break down his deeds during the next few posts. 

And hopefully, I can do this great American the justice that he certainly deserves.

Tom Correa


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Teaching In The Old West


When people think of those coming West, many only think of farmers and ranchers, cattlemen, teamsters, saloon owners, blacksmith, and such. I've found that not very many people think about teachers coming West, especially male teachers. Probably because of Hollywood, a lot of people are under the impression that teachers were all women. 

In reality, which in most cases Hollywood knows very little about, from our colonial times and into the early decades of the 1800's, most teachers were men. Most were what was called career schoolmasters. But in small rural schools, more than not, the people who taught school were also farmers, surveyors, tradesmen, and even innkeepers. 

As for farmers teaching school, they did so during the winter months when their fields were dormant and farming took a rest. The legacy of farming on schools actually lives on today in that school calendar years are still setup to where schools are in session from September to early June. This was the slowest time of the year for farming. It was this time of year when a farmer could do other things besides work the ground. It was also the time of year when children weren't needed to work the family farm.

I find it interesting that career schoolmasters at the time actually educated teachers. I also find it interesting that the more educated and ambitious schoolmasters were young men who made the schoolroom a stepping-stone on their way to careers in the church or on their way to practicing law. In fact, it's said that teaching jobs were used as stepping-stones to connect with local ministers and school committees while attempting to move on to their real professions. 

"The grammar school teachers have rarely had any education beyond what they have acquired in the very schools where they have to teach. Their attainments, therefore, to say the least, are usually very moderate." -- James Carter, Education Reformer, 1826

As Common Schools came into being, what we call Public Schools, there simply were not enough schoolmasters to staff them. But besides the lack of teachers, schools needed better teachers. Of course, as I stated a bit ago, most young men were using teaching as a way to more profitable and prestigious professions. Many were being drawn West for opportunities that simply weren't available in the cities of the East.

Because there were not enough male teachers, women were looked at as a ready source of labor to teach. That is, if school reformers could convince the public to accept women as teachers. Of course while women were considered poised to take over the schoolrooms across America, many were against it.

Women teachers had taught in what were called Dame Schools out of their homes. This was usually for the youngest children. The Dame School teachers were not particularly well educated, but that's where they showed everyone that they could teach. And yes, it should be noted that the 1840's was about the time when younger women were becoming better educated. It was about that time in the United States, that there was a surge in female literacy. It was this that Common School reformers seized upon and soon hiring women to teach in the Common Schools, what we now call Public Schools, took place. 

School reformers saw a women's most important qualification as their femininity because they saw that natural trait as an asset with dealing with children. School system reformers argued that "women were by nature nurturing and maternal, as well as of high moral character." Biology has dictated that women are maternal for a reason. This was something that school reformers wanted to seize upon.

"God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems...very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price." -- Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849.

Imagine that! Purposely hiring women teachers because you could pay them less? Imagine how that would go over today if someone were openly advocating such a thing? I can almost hear someone yell, "Get a rope!" 

And we wonder where wage inequality started. Fact is, school reformers by 1840 seized on the fact that women were available -- and there was a chance to save money. Why, because women were paid only a third what male teachers received. 

If you think this was something that needed to be corrected, you're right. Sadly, Americans are still fighting this battle as even today, 180 years later, many still haven't heard of paying people the same wages for doing the same job. Republican women like Susan B. Anthony pushed for that, but that story is for another time.

And if you don't think there were higher demands on women teachers than there were male teachers, take a look at this. "The school committee are sentinels stationed at the door of every school house in the State, to see that no teacher crosses its threshold, who is not clothed, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, in garments of virtue." While the person who wrote that said the grammatically correct use of "he", they were talking about women and not men. 

Beginning in the mid-1800's, it was demanded that teachers were moral exemplars, the models and instructors of upright living. But even though women were seen as having moral superiority over men, there were those who were concerned about a women teacher's ability to maintain order in the classroom -- which included disciplining unruly children. And frankly, there was a justified reason for this concern. Fact is, the majority of new schoolmarms were very young. Some were only fourteen or fifteen years old. Many had finished the equivalent of 8th grade. And, in some schools, that was all that was needed to qualify them to teach.

So imagine the classroom being taught by a fourteen or fifteen year old young "woman" teacher who was barely still a child herself. In some cases, their pupils might be taller and older than they were. That was definitely the case when some of the larger farm boys returned to school after harvest had ended and they weren't needed on the farm by October. This is why women teachers during the 19th Century often complained that teaching became a definite challenging when the "big boys" arrived. Among other things, some of those "boys" either flirt with them or out and out defied them. No, it couldn't have been easy.

It is said that with as many as sixty or more children attended the average one-room rural schoolhouse. So yes, those women teachers had their work cut out for them. As for the curriculum, it was reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history. Among the most common material used to teach reading was Webster's blue-backed speller and the Holy Bible. Both were said to have been very popular with the children. 

Yes, the Bible. While many will send me an email to let me know of their dislike with my belief in the positive impact of Christianity on America, they will probably dislike a simple fact pertaining to the Old West. Since many families coming West only had their family Bible to read in most cases, most Americans in the Old West learned to read because they read the Bible. That's just a fact. 

While that fact will surely get people writing me to tell me about how there were all sorts of books available at the time, they should save their efforts and take another look at what I wrote. Like it or not, pioneers coming West brought with them a great many things when they started their way West by wagon train. Some of those things were books. Like it or not, books were seen as non-essentials when trying to survive such a journey. 

And when we look at the items that were thrown out along the way to make the trip easier, and trust me when I say that there was a reason that the trails West were littered with all sorts of non-essential family items, their family Bible was never jettisoned from a wagon during the long trek. Because of that, more than not, pioneers only had their family Bible to read in most cases. Because of that, the family Bible was what was used when teaching their child how to read. 

As for its use in schools, teachers were known to bring their Bibles to school where it was very popular. I believe that was the case because it was made enjoyable to read. And since children were on the most part already familiar with the stories, it was not seen as a drudgery to read. 

Tom Correa   





Thursday, January 9, 2020

Reintroducing Wolves Is A Dumb Idea


Having to take a science class was a requirement for a degree when I attended college back in 1981. I decided to take an ecology course to fulfill my needs. I  had a great teacher who I found out later specialized in reptiles. He was a wonderful teacher because he was very sensible about the subject. Yes, even back then there were crazies who were extremist. Thankfully, he wasn't one of them.

The last thing that I wanted to do was sit through a class where the teacher was some sort of environmentalist nutcase who wants to rid the earth of people just to save a species of fish that's not even supposed to be where its been found. And yes, they are among us. Yes, especially here in California where farmers were once denied precious water for their crops -- just to keep a few fish alive.

In fact, one of the things that my teacher stressed was how vulnerable ecosystems are in a constant fight against invasive species. I remember him saying how it's taking place all over the globe on a continual basis. I also remember how invasive species are a huge problem.

From what I gather, nothing has changed. Either through accident or by design, non-native plants spread like wildfire in areas that nature did not put them in the first place. The same goes for animals. Many have been introduced and even reintroduced into environments by accident and by design -- yes, on purpose. Many of those animals should not be there. 

Take for example rats. In most places around the world where rats were not present, they are today. Most were introduced by accident. Most were introduced by way of ships arriving at their seaports. Rats are an invasive species. How long ago has this being taking place? Well, that started when the first ships took to the sea. And while all sorts of precautions have been taken place to stop the spread of rats, most efforts have been unsuccessful.

If I remember what I was told, because their spread has been taking place over a few thousand years, rats are the most invasive species of animal around the world. Because of this, rats leaving ships have indirectly caused the extinction of many species. Remember, this is by accidentally introducing rats to areas where rats were not there. It being accidental is the thing to remember here. 

And no, if you're wondering, rats are not native to North America. It is believed that rats were accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1600's, although some say 1700's. And now, they are everywhere. Rats will eat anything including eggs, chickens, vegetables, garbage, you name it. While rats are found in rural America, their population is mainly located in filthy cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Detroit, Boston, and Atlanta where they thrive on the filth. They are in the sewers, in buildings, slums, and ghettos of almost every city in the world.

There's an urban legend that says the rat population in New York City is equal to that of its human population. While I don't know if that's true, it sure may be the case in San Francisco and Los Angeles where the homeless population has exploded. And with it, the filth and sanitation problems associated with that. And as we all know, they eat garbage and spread disease -- such as the bubonic plague, Lassa fever, leptospirosis, and Hantavirus infection.

Rats are omnivorous, very capable of eating all sorts of plants and animal feeds. Rats attacking grain storage on farms and ranches is a huge problem. As for their climbing trees and eating chicks in their nests, when introduced to a new area, they quickly reproduce to take advantage of the new food supply including preying on bird eggs and chicks.

Because of the destructive effect, and their very high birth rate, rats have contributed to the extinction of many native species, including birds, small mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants. That's especially true on islands where there are no predators. And by the way, rats are smart enough to avoid being killed, caught, or eaten.

Here's something to think about. Contrary to what some environmentalists say when inflating the effects of the hoax known as Climate Change, experts agree that rats are to blame for up to sixty percent of all seabird and reptile extinctions. Again, remember, this was all caused through an invasive species being accidentally introduced to areas where rats were not there. Accidental is the thing to remember because there are those who have introduced invasive species because someone wanted to do so. Yes, on purpose.

They Should Be Shot On Sight

Accidental is one thing, but let's take a look at introducing an invasive species on purpose -- all while not realizing the adverse effects of what can take place. Take for example the nutria. Those huge rodent like critters were initially brought into the United States from South America for their fur in the 1930s. They ended up flourishing in the wild and have grown out of control in Louisiana after they were released into the wild when the fur industry died out there.

In Louisiana, they are simply called "swamp rats" because of their looks. But they are not really rats. They are just a distant cousin of the rat. In fact, nutria don’t look like rats with long tails and orange buck teeth. To me, they look more like beavers, but they certainly breed like rats. Female nutria give birth to litters of up to 14 young before going back into heat just two days later. 

Federal wildlife officials say "there’s no hope of eradicating nutria from Louisiana." And because of their habit of endlessly digging on the banks of rivers and other waterways, they are known to cause soil to erosion while destroying native habitats for everything from muskrats to crabs. Yes, all while ripping up native species of plants by the roots. Because of their destruction, it's said that coastal restoration projects involve planting vegetation to stabilize marshland requires nutria control to be a success.

Then there's the European starlings. Native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, European starlings are little birds that travel in huge flocks that are known to wreak all sorts of havoc on farms and ranches across our nation. These are pests that were purposely introduced here. Yes, they are an invasive species that we introduced on purpose. Again, not understanding what harm can come for making such a decision.

Imagine this, it is reported that "every year, the Agriculture Department’s division of Wildlife Service's kills 4 million animals identified by residents across the country as a nuisance, and European starlings are the number one targeted nuisance." For me, the term "nuisance" doesn't quite cover the harm they do -- or the huge costs incurred by farms and ranches to deal with the problems they create. 

The huge flocks that the European starlings form are impressive with more than 3,000 birds in a flock at one time. Because of that, their flocks resemble small black clouds. They feed on fruit and grains, and cause serious damage to a farm. Starlings are known to enter buildings to roost and build nests which create sanitation problems. Starling scat carries Histoplasma capsulatum, an infectious fungus for humans, as well as at least three human-pathogenic bacteria and salmonella. Beside health problems to people, European starlings are known to carry diseases that are also transmissible to livestock. This includes TGE (transmissible gastroenteritis) which is a swine disease, blastomycosis, and salmonella.

As for starlings descending on farms and ranches, they in fact point their beaks at the ground and swarm feeding cattle and horses and steal their feed. Besides that, they are known to take over other birds' nests, which means native birds are left without a place to lay their eggs or raise their chicks. And also, these birds are very aggressive as they are well known to fight over food and territory. Believe it or not, they do that by preventing cattle and horses from eating by needling and harassing livestock to keep them away from their feed. Fact is, starlings are one of the more omnivorous bird species, as they eat feeds, seeds in freshly planted fields, fruits, invertebrates, and even human leftover foods.

Why were they purposely introduced? Believe it or not, European starlings were brought here by people who thought they would help control crop pests. They were also brought here as pets. And believe it or not, one man is said to be responsible for introducing these nasty birds -- all because they were mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. Yes, they were introduced in the United States by a Shakespeare fan in 1890.

Talk about the act of a fool. In 1890, Eugene Schieffelin was a fan of Shakespeare. He read about starlings in Henry IV, and became inspired to bring some of the birds to America. He is known to have brought sixty European starlings to New York City and released them in Central Park.

Did he achieve his mission? Well, with a population today of about 200 million, European starlings are an invasive species completely out of control. In fact, they are now listed among the top 100 invasive species by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And frankly, especially because of huge expense of dealing with their negative effect on farms, ranches, orchards, and even wineries, they should be shot on sight. And please don't kid yourself, invasive species like the European starling in the United States inflicts billions of dollars in loss and damages annually. Yes, especially on agriculture which can least afford it.

So now, let's talk about feral hogs, a species not native to America that was purposely introduced for food. As I stated in my post Let's Talk About Feral Hogs -- They Should Be Shot, while they were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food, according to the USDA, "free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures led to the first establishment of feral swine populations within the United States."

To make matters worse, back in the early 1900s, the Eurasian or Russian wild boar was introduced into parts of the United States for sport hunting. Because they did not have a predator as they did in  Russia, those now feral hogs are loose to breed. Between them and domestic hogs, there are hybrids which are taking over. They are in more than 40 states and their population is estimated at over 6 million -- and growing rapidly.

Remember, they have no natural predators here. And to complicate matters, urban sprawl has meant that feral hogs once hunted in the unincorporated areas are now in city limits. As with deer hunting in some places, since there is no hunting within city limits, nevertheless discharge of firearms within city limits in most cities, they are running rampant. And to make matters worse, the federal government brought in all sorts of control restrictions since the 1960s.

While some jurisdictions actually encourage feral hog hunting, others say no to hunting and trapping to the tune of large fines and even the possibility of jail time. As for using humane approaches, it's proven that they don't work. They need to be exterminated.

Feral hogs damage pastures, ruin crop land, destroy hay and irrigation. Feral hogs can transmit pathogens to livestock, kill calves and lambs, and vulnerable adult animals during the birthing process. Feral swine may also eat or contaminate livestock feed, mineral supplements, and water sources. The expense that farmers and ranchers is something they don't need when they are already fighting to stay afloat. And don't kid yourself, the financial losses to farmers and livestock producers due to lower productivity, veterinary costs, or mortality are huge.

So now, with this their numbers are growing in leaps and bounds. To address the problem, the answer from environmentalists is to bring in predators that are not native species. Yes, bring in a predator species that is not a native species to address another non-native species. You see where we're going here?


Reintroducing Wolves Is A Dumb Idea! 

Well-meaning environmentalist screw with the natural balance of ecosystems when they purposely introduce an invasive species. Of course others have to deal with the havoc they wreak on native species when environmentalists introduce species where they weren't meant to be in today's world. Keys words, in today's world.

Take for example the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves as predators to decrease the feral hog population in the southern United States. This is one of those dumb ideas. As we stated, one of the most notorious invasive species is the feral hog. In Texas, the hog populations cause ecological and agricultural damage that costs the state $52 million annually.

Gray wolves have been reintroduced into feral hog habitats. The problem has to do with today's world. Use of the Mexican grey wolf for feral hog population control has had very little success. One key reason is that the wolves have found much easier prey than the feral hogs which they were supposed to go after. From pets to livestock, grey wolves have found them a lot more defenseless than feral hogs and their razor-sharp tusks. 

A Dumber Idea! 

While this is an effort to control feral hogs, there are environmentalists who simply want to play God and reintroduce species into areas where they have been eradicated. The willingness of environmentalists to play God is actually causing the decline of native animals and livestock while putting human health and economies at risk. And by the way, for some reason, environmentalists don't understand why some species were weeded out. As with the wolf, they caused more harm than good on once dwindling native species, livestock and local economies. It's a dumb idea that environmentalist are too proud to say hasn't worked.

For example, there's no good reason to reintroduce the wolf into Yellowstone National Park. The global grey wolf population is estimated to be 300,000, so it's obvious that they are not on the brink of extinction. Canada is said to have over 60,000 wolves. And here in the United States, we have a population of at least 18,000 wolves.

Back in the 1880s, there was an effort to control the numbers of wolves in that area simply because they were killing precious livestock and game animals. Away from the economics of the loss of livestock, we're talking about the loss of food for people. By 1914, the federal government was working to completely remove wolves from Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding states. By 1927, while not completely eradicated, a large number of wolves were removed from Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.

In the 1960s, environmentalists introduced wolf reintroduction to the federal government with the belief that the reintroduction of natural predators would help to "stabilize" the number of native species the region. By 1973, the Federal Endangered Species Act reinforced the clout of the environmentalist to get their way. State laws passed by politicians beholding to environmentalist groups only helped the effort to play God.

The reasoning on the part of environmentalists is three fold?

First, they wanted to reduce the number of "grazing game animals." Because of the hunting activities of wolves, environmentalists figured they would reduce the number of elk, deer, moose, buffalo, and such. They did this because they saw elk, deer, moose, bison, and such detrimental to tree and grass growth. They really believed that by killing off elk, deer, moose, bison, and such, so that more birds would populate the region.

This is called playing God at the height of the stupidity. And no, no one taking the money from the environmental groups bothered to mention how hard Americans worked to bring back elk, deer, moose, and bison from their decline in the 1800's.

Second, environmentalists saw reintroducing wolves as a way to make money! It's called "ecotourism," and environmentalists believed they could boost ecotourism by getting the National Park Service to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park as well as other regions.

Environmentalists pitched the idea that the reintroduction of wolves would be nothing less than an attraction that would draw more visitors to Yellowstone. The promise was that you too could see wolves in the wild, no matter what adverse affect they had on the native species that were thriving after years of decline. And by the way, the park service bought it hook line and sinker.

Did the environmentalists do this to get people into parks? No, they did it to garner more donors who saw their misplaced plans of reintroducing wolves as a wonderful. And it worked, it is belived that over 150,000 people from around the world go to Yellowstone National Park each year specifically for the wolf population. With that, the coffers of environmentalist groups have filled while at the same time more people have gone to the park and surrounding area to see wolves devouring a moose, a bison, a calf that was moments before feeding on a mama cow.

Wolf-watching tours makes millions of dollars for environmentalists. But they won't tell you that. They will say they wanted to reintroduce wolves because of the ecological impact on the native grasses. They will tell you that wolves help provide a balance to local ecosystems. They will tell you that one of the grazing herds in that region actually totaled more than 35,000 animals after wolves were almost eliminated from Yellowstone National Park. But that's a lie.

In fact, after being introduced in Yellowstone in 1995, the elk population in the park which was 21,000, is today less than 1,000. And of course, they will not tell you that the moose population in the Yellowstone region is in drastic decline as a result of the estimated 528 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as of 2015.

And in today's world, they have no care what wolves do to livestock producers. Of course, they will assure us that there are controls in place to prevent livestock losses -- but their attempt to control what wolves kill is laughable at best. And frankly, the most insulting lie is that wolves don't go after livestock when they are hungry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that wolves killed over 4,300 cattle in 2015 in the Northern Rocky Mountains. And image this, environmentalists argue that domestic dogs kill 100% more livestock than wolves do. It's this sort of false claim that demonstrates what measures environmentalists will go to in an effort to justify reintroducing an invasive species.

And How About Wolf Attacks?

As for wolf attacking livestock, this happens. And in some cases, the livestock is not killed and eaten but only mauled. Some cattle perish from a lethal mix of injuries and the stress of being chased by wolves. Some cattle have to be put down because there's simply no saving the animal after such a vicious wolf attack. And sadly, ranchers are on their own against wolves who prey on their livelihood with no means to stop them since in many places the law is not on their side.

As for attacking people, they happen more than most realize. Take for example what happened to a family camping in a Canada national park in August of 2019. That was when an American family, the Rispoli family, visiting Canada was camping in one of Canada's national parks in Banff National Park in Alberta and a wolf attacked them in the middle of the night. Fortunately for them, another camper in a nearby tent helped fight off the wolf -- while the family of four was able to flee.

Mrs. Rispoli recounted the terrifying incident on Facebook. She wrote "It was like something out of a horror movie. Matt literally threw his body in front of me and the two boys, and fought the wolf as it ripped apart our tent and his arms and hands."

And when I hear wolf fans say that there hasn't been a wolf killing anyone in the United States for a hundred years, I can't help but wonder what the family of Candice Berner think about that.

At approximately 6:00 p.m., on March 8th, 2010, the body of Candice Berner was found next to a snow-covered road approximately two miles from the community of Chignik Lake, Alaska. The state of Alaska determined Ms. Berner’s death was not the result of a criminal act, but instead she was killed by wolves.

In fact, a state of Alaska Medical Examiner determined that "Ms. Berner died from multiple injuries due to animal mauling. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and the DPS Alaska State Troopers (AST) then evaluated both the physical evidence and the eyewitness testimony of Chignik Lake residents. The investigators concluded that Ms. Berner was attacked and killed by wolves.  A joint action to lethally collect wolves from the immediate area was undertaken by the two departments to address public safety concerns and to investigate biological factors that may have contributed to the attack. Genetic analysis of samples taken from the victim’s clothing and from wolves killed in the lethal removal action positively identified one wolf and implicated others in the attack." 

No matter how the environmentalist tried to spin what took place, wolves killed Ms. Berner and they attack people, livestock, and pets. They refuse to accept the fact, or don't care, that reintroducing wolves has a detrimental impact on agricultural economies, farmers and ranchers suffer. They also refuse to acknowledge that wolf relocation is a huge expense to taxpayers, wolves can harm the livelihoods of people in regions where they are present, and wolves also attack people and pets. And while environmentalists want to make excuses for wolf attacks on humans, it is a real danger that should be taken under consideration when reintroducing such predators. 

Sadly, even though there is evidence of multiple attacks on people taking place in the United States and Canada, there are those who say anyone attacked by wolves must be at fault. Thus the mindset of environmentalists.  

Tom Correa















Monday, January 6, 2020

Let's Talk About Feral Hogs -- They Should Be Shot

Feral hogs are not native to the Americas. They were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food. Free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures led to the first establishment of feral swine populations within the United States. 

In the 1900s, the Eurasian or Russian wild boar was introduced into parts of the United States for the purpose of sport hunting. Today, feral swine are a combination of escaped domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boars, and hybrids of the two. Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states. 

Their population is estimated at over 6 million and is rapidly expanding. Range expansion over the last few decades is due to a variety of factors including their adaptability to a variety of climates and conditions, translocation by humans, and a lack of natural predators.

Feral swine cause major damage to property, agriculture (crops and livestock), native species and ecosystems, and cultural and historic resources. In fact, this invasive species costs the United States an estimated $1.5 billion each year in damages and control costs. Feral swine also threaten the health of people, wildlife, pets, and other domestic animals. As feral swine populations continue to expand across the country, these damages, costs, and risks will only keep rising.

As for crops, feral swine damage crops by consuming them or by their rooting, trampling, and wallowing behaviors. Field crops commonly targeted by feral swine include sugar cane, corn, grain sorghum, soy beans, wheat, oats, peanuts, and rice; however, they will eat almost any crop. Farmers may also experience damage to vegetable and fruit crops such as lettuce, spinach, melons, and pumpkins.

Feral swine damage pasture grasses, killing desired plant species and often encouraging the growth of undesired weed species. Feral swine will turn over sod and pasture, by rooting, to expose the tender roots of plants, grubs, and invertebrates which ultimately destroys the pasture. The ruts and rises this behavior creates can make it challenging, even impossible, for a farmer to drive a tractor over the field to harvest hay.

When it comes to livestock? Feral swine can transmit pathogens to livestock, which may result in financial losses to livestock producers due to lower productivity, veterinary costs, or even mortality. They are also capable of killing young calves and lambs, and vulnerable adult animals during the birthing process. Feral swine may also eat or contaminate livestock feed, mineral supplements, and/or water sources.

In regards to horticulture, feral swine can devastate orchards and vineyards by consuming fruit, berries, citrus, grapes, and nuts. Feral swine can destroy saplings and vines by roughly rubbing on the plants with their bodies (which they do to remove parasites from their skin) and can also damage large trees by scraping bark off with their tusks to mark territory, creating an entry point for diseases on the tree. Their rooting can severely damage, or even kill, saplings, shrubs and vines directly or by facilitating the spread of soil-based fungal diseases. Feral swine can also break irrigation lines, rip or tear nets, trellises, drying racks, and other specialized structures and equipment associated with orchards and vineyards.

There are definite risks to people and pets. In fact, feral hogs cause great risks to human health and safety, by harboring and transmitting diseases to people and pets and by causing collisions with vehicles and aircraft.

Feral hogs are known to carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, livestock, and other wildlife.

The most common way pathogens and parasites are transmitted from feral swine to humans is through handling and butchering feral swine or eating meat that has not been cooked thoroughly. Gloves should always be worn when handling feral swine carcasses, and meat should always be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160oF in order to kill the parasites and pathogens that the animal may be carrying.

Harmful organisms and pathogens, carried by feral swine, which can infect humans include diseases such as leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, tularemia, trichinellosis, swine influenza, salmonella, hepatitis and pathogenic E. coli. If you feel ill after coming into contact with or consuming feral swine meat, contact your physician or health department immediately.

Livestock, pets, and other domestic animals can also be susceptible to many pathogens carried by feral swine. These pathogens can be spread in many ways, such as through direct contact with feral swine or their scat, by using feeding and watering containers that have been contaminated by feral swine, or by eating raw, infected feral swine meat, organs, or other tissues.

Watch for signs of illness (fever, lethargy, swelling in joints, respiratory, and reproductive problems) in your pets and contact your veterinarian immediately if signs of illness are observed. Caution should be taken around pets and livestock that are suspected to be ill from recent contact with feral swine since some diseases can be transmitted to other animals and possibly humans.

Other risks posed by feral swine to people include attacks on individuals or collisions with vehicles and aircraft. Feral swine have been aggressive towards and even attacked farmers, golfers, hikers, and picnickers. Aggression can be increased when they associate people with food because of handouts and improper waste disposal.

Feral swine can destroy lawns, gardens, ornamental plantings, and trees through rooting. They can also damage landscaping, fences, and other structures reducing the aesthetic value of the property.

Although most often associated with rural areas, feral swine are increasingly causing damage to residential property, golf courses, cemeteries, beaches, and parks. Furthermore, feral swine can cause considerable damage when involved in vehicle collisions such as with cars, motorcycles, and aircraft.
Damage to natural resources.

Feral hogs pollute and degrade water quality, reduce forest regeneration, and kill or displace many kinds of native wildlife. They compete with native wildlife for multiple resources, specifically food, habitat, and water. Feral swine diets overlap with those of native wildlife, such as bear, deer, and turkey, which results in competition for important and limited natural food supplies. Feral swine activity will often deter other species from living in an area, resulting in competition over prime habitat. Feral swine wallow in mud to maintain proper body temperature which can be particularly problematic during dry seasons when they monopolize and contaminate limited water sources.

Feral hogs also prey directly on the nests, eggs, and young of native ground nesting birds and reptiles, including threatened or endangered species. Game birds such as wild turkeys, grouse, and quail can also be impacted. Feral swine have even been documented killing and eating deer fawns, and actively hunting small mammals, frogs, lizards, and snakes.

Feral swine wallows are prime mosquito habitat which contributes to the prevalence of various mosquito-borne diseases. Wallows can also be a place of transmission for bacteria and parasites from feral swine to native wildlife that come to drink.

Soil and water quality are effected because feral swine rooting and wallowing activity increases erosion, especially along waterways and in wetlands. Rooting and trampling can limit water infiltration and nutrient cycling. Large groups of feral swine can deposit significant amounts of fecal material in concentrated areas, contaminating water sources, resulting in increased disease risks for humans, wildlife, and livestock.

As for the spread of invasive species of plants, feral swine aid in the spread of invasive species of plants. Many invasive plants prefer areas of recent disturbance, such as wallows or rooted areas, and feral swine can spread seeds on their fur or in feces.

Forest regeneration is harmed because feral swine can alter the understory growth of forests through rooting and foraging, ultimately shifting the tree species diversity and density in a forest by interfering with seed dispersal since they are huge consumers of mast crops (i.e., acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts, and tupelo). Consumption of mast, not only depletes food sources for native wildlife such as deer and turkey, but this behavior can also alter the forest composition by decreasing the number of large seed-producing trees.

Feral swine rooting, wallowing and feeding behaviors can damage the appearance and integrity of cultural and historical resources

Feral hogs  can cause extensive damage to areas of cultural and historic value including national parks, historic sites, tribal sacred sites, burial grounds, cemeteries, and archaeological sites or digs. This damage can affect the significance and integrity of historic properties through physical disturbance to structures, vegetation, and soils. Feral swine have the potential to destroy artifacts and history which can never be recovered or replaced.

Most all of the information above was taken directly from the United States Department of Agriculture website. 

The USDA did not mention how well-meaning people screw with the natural balance of ecosystems when they purposely introduce an invasive species. They also didn't mention how others have to deal with the havoc they wreak on native species. In many case, the willingness of some to introduce invasive animal species like feral swine actually caused the extinction of plants and animals while putting human health and economies at risk.

And while the USDA states, "Range expansion over the last few decades is due to a variety of factors including their adaptability to a variety of climates and conditions, translocation by humans, and a lack of natural predators" -- they do not mention the efforts made by wealthy gun-control advocates to eliminate hunting all in an effort to ban guns in the United States. Gun-control and the efforts made to eliminate hunting has enabled the feral swine population explosion in recent years.

And make no mistake about it, feral swine are an invasive species that's well established in many states. Contrary to the USDA's claim of "Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states" some say the number is more like 43 states. And as for places like Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, people in those states know full well that feral hogs are not simply farm pigs gone wild. They have razor-sharp teeth, curled tusks, and are not afraid of attacking humans. 

These are not small animals. Adult feral hogs weigh between 75 and 250 pounds on average, but some can get twice as large. This invasive species can reach 3 feet in height and 5 feet in length. Typically, males (boars) are larger than females (sows).

They are muscular and strong, and can run up to 30 miles per hour. Like deer and domestic pigs, feral swine have cloven hooves. Although feral swine tracks look similar to deer tracks, they have a blunter tipped toe, and their tracks have a square shape, compared to the pointed heart-shaped tracks of deer.

Feral hogs breed year-round and can have up to two litters of 4 to 12 piglets per year. Since they become sexually mature at 6 to 8 months of age, feral hog populations have the potential to double in size every four months. That's why population management is so important.

Feral swine generally travel in family groups, called sounders, composed of two or more adult sows and their young. Sounders can vary in size, including a few individuals to as many as 30 members. Adult boars usually live alone or in bachelor groups, only joining a sounder to breed. Because they are usually active at night, feral swine are less frequently seen during daylight hours, particularly in hot, humid climates. 

Non-lethal management techniques can be effective for limiting disease transmission, crop damage, and livestock loss. But make no mistake about it, lethal techniques are a more effective means for limiting population growth and stopping the damage that they create. In other words, they should be shot! 

It is recommended that prior to beginning any control program, that one should check federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding hunting, use of firearms, and traps, snares, and such. As for trying to kill them off, hunters in most states are permitted to shoot them on sight.

Tom Correa


Saturday, January 4, 2020

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

While I know full well that this is not my usual type of post, I've copied and pasted a lot of great information here for folks who may be experiencing the signs of afib. These signs should be taken seriously. As for experiencing Atrial fibrillation, also known as "afib," it can be scary. I'm posting the information below to provide you, my readers, with information in an effort to help you if you're experiencing the symptoms of this. 

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of strokes, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly — out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Atrial fibrillation symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.

Episodes of atrial fibrillation may come and go, or you may develop atrial fibrillation that doesn't go away and may require treatment. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn't life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment.

A major concern with atrial fibrillation is the potential to develop blood clots within the upper chambers of the heart. These blood clots forming in the heart may circulate to other organs and lead to blocked blood flow (ischemia).

Treatments for atrial fibrillation may include medications and other interventions to try to alter the heart's electrical system.

Symptoms:
  • Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it's discovered during a physical examination. Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience signs and symptoms such as:
  • Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flip-flopping in your chest
  • Weakness
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
Atrial fibrillation may be:
  • Occasional. In this case it's called paroxysmal (par-ok-SIZ-mul) atrial fibrillation. You may have symptoms that come and go, usually lasting for a few minutes to hours. Sometimes symptoms occur for as long as a week and episodes can happen repeatedly. Your symptoms might go away on their own or you may need treatment.
  • Persistent. With this type of atrial fibrillation, your heart rhythm doesn't go back to normal on its own. If you have persistent atrial fibrillation, you'll need treatment such as an electrical shock or medications in order to restore your heart rhythm.
  • Long-standing persistent. This type of atrial fibrillation is continuous and lasts longer than 12 months.
  • Permanent. In this type of atrial fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm can't be restored. You'll have atrial fibrillation permanently, and you'll often require medications to control your heart rate and to prevent blood clots.
When to see a doctor

If you have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may order an electrocardiogram to determine if your symptoms are related to atrial fibrillation or another heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia).

If you have chest pain, seek emergency medical assistance immediately. Chest pain could signal that you're having a heart attack.

Causes



Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that occurs when the two upper chambers of your heart experience chaotic electrical signals. The result is a fast and irregular heart rhythm. The heart rate in atrial fibrillation may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute. The normal range for a heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Your heart is made up of four chambers — two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Within the upper right chamber of your heart (right atrium) is a group of cells called the sinus node. This is your heart's natural pacemaker. The sinus node produces the signal that normally starts each heartbeat.

Normally, the signal travels through the two upper heart chambers, and then through a connecting pathway between the upper and lower chambers called the atrioventricular (AV) node. The movement of the signal causes your heart to squeeze (contract), sending blood to your heart and body.

In atrial fibrillation, the signals in the upper chambers of your heart are chaotic. As a result, they quiver. The AV node — the electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles — is bombarded with impulses trying to get through to the ventricles.

The ventricles also beat rapidly, but not as rapidly as the atria, as not all the impulses get through.

Possible causes of atrial fibrillation:
  • Abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Heart defects you're born with (congenital)
  • An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance
  • Exposure to stimulants, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol
  • Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart's natural pacemaker
  • Lung diseases
  • Previous heart surgery
  • Viral infections
  • Stress due to surgery, pneumonia or other illnesses
  • Sleep apnea
However, some people who have atrial fibrillation don't have any heart defects or damage, a condition called lone atrial fibrillation. In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause is often unclear, and serious complications are rare.
Atrial flutter

Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, but the rhythm in your atria is more organized and less chaotic than the abnormal patterns common with atrial fibrillation. Sometimes you may have atrial flutter that develops into atrial fibrillation and vice versa.

The risk factors for and the symptoms and causes of atrial flutter are similar to those of atrial fibrillation. For example, strokes are also a concern in someone with atrial flutter. As with atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is usually not life-threatening when it's properly treated.

Risk factors

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. These include:
  • Age. The older you are, the greater your risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
  • Heart disease. Anyone with heart disease — such as heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery — has an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
  • High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure, especially if it's not well-controlled with lifestyle changes or medications, can increase your risk of atrial fibrillation.
  • Other chronic conditions. People with certain chronic conditions such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or lung disease have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
  • Drinking alcohol. For some people, drinking alcohol can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. Binge drinking may put you at an even higher risk.
  • Obesity. People who are obese are at higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
  • Family history. An increased risk of atrial fibrillation is present in some families.
  • Complications
Sometimes atrial fibrillation can lead to the following complications:

  • Stroke. In atrial fibrillation, the chaotic rhythm may cause blood to pool in your heart's upper chambers (atria) and form clots. If a blood clot forms, it could dislodge from your heart and travel to your brain. There it might block blood flow, causing a stroke.
The risk of a stroke in atrial fibrillation depends on your age (you have a higher risk as you age) and on whether you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a history of heart failure or a previous stroke, and other factors. Certain medications, such as blood thinners, can greatly lower your risk of a stroke or the damage to other organs caused by blood clots.
  • Heart failure. Atrial fibrillation, especially if not controlled, may weaken the heart and lead to heart failure — a condition in which your heart can't circulate enough blood to meet your body's needs.

Prevention:
  • To prevent atrial fibrillation, it's important to live a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease. A healthy lifestyle may include:
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • Reducing stress, as intense stress and anger can cause heart rhythm problems
  • Using over-the-counter medications with caution, as some cold and cough medications contain stimulants that may trigger a rapid heartbeat
Diagnosis:

To diagnose atrial fibrillation, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, review your medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition, including:
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG uses small sensors (electrodes) attached to your chest and arms to sense and record electrical signals as they travel through your heart. This test is a primary tool for diagnosing atrial fibrillation.
  • Holter monitor. This portable ECG device is carried in your pocket or worn on a belt or shoulder strap. It records your heart's activity for 24 hours or longer, which provides your doctor with a prolonged look at your heart rhythms.
  • Event recorder. This portable ECG device is intended to monitor your heart activity over a few weeks to a few months. When you experience symptoms of a fast heart rate, you push a button, and an ECG strip of the preceding few minutes and following few minutes is recorded. This permits your doctor to determine your heart rhythm at the time of your symptoms.
  • Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. Usually, a wandlike device (transducer) is held on your chest. Sometimes, a flexible tube with the transducer is guided down your throat through to your esophagus. Your doctor may use an echocardiogram to diagnose structural heart disease or blood clots in the heart.
  • Blood tests. These help your doctor rule out thyroid problems or other substances in your blood that may lead to atrial fibrillation.
  • Stress test. Also called exercise testing, stress testing involves running tests on your heart while you're exercising.
  • Chest X-ray. X-ray images help your doctor see the condition of your lungs and heart. Your doctor can also use an X-ray to diagnose conditions other than atrial fibrillation that may explain your signs and symptoms.
Treatment:
  • The atrial fibrillation treatment that is most appropriate for you will depend on how long you've had atrial fibrillation, how bothersome your symptoms are and the underlying cause of your atrial fibrillation. Generally, the treatment goals for atrial fibrillation are to:
  • Reset the rhythm or control the rate
  • Prevent blood clots, which may decrease the risk of a stroke
The strategy you and your doctor choose depends on many factors, including whether you have other problems with your heart and if you're able to take medications that can control your heart rhythm. In some cases, you may need a more invasive treatment, such as medical procedures using catheters or surgery.

In some people, a specific event or an underlying condition, such as a thyroid disorder, may trigger atrial fibrillation. Treating the condition causing atrial fibrillation may help relieve your heart rhythm problems. If your symptoms are bothersome or if this is your first episode of atrial fibrillation, your doctor may attempt to reset the rhythm.

Resetting your heart's rhythm

Ideally, to treat atrial fibrillation, the heart rate and rhythm are reset to normal. To correct your condition, doctors may be able to reset your heart to its regular rhythm (sinus rhythm) using a procedure called cardioversion, depending on the underlying cause of atrial fibrillation and how long you've had it.

Cardioversion can be done in two ways:
  • Electrical cardioversion. In this brief procedure, an electrical shock is delivered to your heart through paddles or patches placed on your chest. The shock stops your heart's electrical activity for a short moment. The goal is to reset your heart's normal rhythm. 
You will be given a sedative before the procedure, so you shouldn't feel the electric shock. You may also receive medications to help restore a normal heartbeat (anti-arrhythmics) before the procedure.
  • Cardioversion with drugs. This form of cardioversion uses medications called anti-arrhythmics to help restore normal sinus rhythm. Depending on your heart condition, you may receive medications through an IV or by mouth to help return your heart to normal rhythm.
This is often done in the hospital with continuous monitoring of your heart rate. If your heart rhythm returns to normal, your doctor often will prescribe the same anti-arrhythmic medication or a similar one to try to prevent more spells of atrial fibrillation.

Before cardioversion, you may be given warfarin or another blood-thinning medication for several weeks to reduce the risk of blood clots and strokes. If your episode of atrial fibrillation lasted more than 48 hours, you may need to take this type of medication for at least a month after the procedure to prevent blood clots in the heart.

Maintaining a normal heart rhythm:

After electrical cardioversion, your doctor may prescribe anti-arrhythmic medications to help prevent future episodes of atrial fibrillation. Medications may include:
  • Dofetilide
  • Flecainide
  • Propafenone
  • Amiodarone
  • Sotalol
Although these drugs may help maintain a normal heart rhythm, they can cause side effects, including:
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
Rarely, they may cause ventricular arrhythmias — life-threatening rhythm disturbances originating in the heart's lower chambers. These medications may be needed indefinitely. Even with medications, there is a chance of another episode of atrial fibrillation.
Heart rate control

You may be prescribed medications to control how fast your heart beats and restore it to a normal rate.

Digoxin. 

This medication may control the heart rate at rest, but not as well during activity. Most people need additional or alternative medications, such as calcium channel blockers or beta blockers.
Beta blockers. These medications can help to slow the heart rate at rest and during activity. They may cause side effects such as low blood pressure (hypotension).

Calcium channel blockers. 

These medicines also can control your heart rate, but may need to be avoided if you have heart failure or low blood pressure.

Catheter and surgical procedures



Catheter ablation to isolate the pulmonary veins to treat atrial fibrillation




AV node ablation

Sometimes medications or cardioversion to control atrial fibrillation doesn't work. In those cases, your doctor may recommend a procedure to destroy the area of heart tissue that's causing the erratic electrical signals and restore your heart to a normal rhythm. These options can include:

Catheter ablation. During this procedure, a doctor inserts long, thin tubes (catheters) into your groin and guides them through blood vessels to your heart. The catheter's tip produces radiofrequency energy, extreme cold (cryotherapy) or heat to destroy areas of heart tissue that are causing rapid and irregular heartbeats. Scar tissue forms, which helps signaling return to normal. Cardiac ablation may correct the arrhythmia without the need for medications or implantable devices.

Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you have atrial fibrillation and an otherwise normal heart and medication has not improved your symptoms. It may also be helpful for heart failure patients who have an implanted device and cannot take or tolerate anti-arrhythmic medications.

Maze procedure. 

There are several variations of the maze procedure. The doctor may use a scalpel, radiofrequency or extreme cold (cryotherapy) to create a pattern of scar tissue that interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause atrial fibrillation.

The maze procedures have a high success rate, but atrial fibrillation may come back. If this happens, you may need another cardiac ablation or other heart treatment.

Because the surgical maze procedure (using a scalpel) requires open-heart surgery, it's generally reserved for people who don't get better with other treatments or when it can be done during a necessary heart surgery, such as coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve repair.

Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation. If medications or other forms of catheter ablation don't work or cause side effects, or if you're not a good candidate for these therapies, AV node ablation may be an option. The procedure involves using a catheter to deliver radiofrequency energy to the pathway (AV node) connecting the upper and lower heart chambers.

The procedure destroys a small area of heart tissue, preventing abnormal signaling. However, the upper chambers of the heart (atria) will still quiver. You'll need a pacemaker to be implanted to keep the lower chambers (ventricles) beating properly. You'll need to take blood thinners after this procedure to reduce the risk of a stroke due to atrial fibrillation.
Preventing blood clots

Many people with atrial fibrillation or those who are undergoing certain treatments for atrial fibrillation are at especially high risk of blood clots that can lead to a stroke. The risk is even higher if other heart disease is present along with atrial fibrillation.
Anticoagulants

Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) such as:
  • Warfarin. Warfarin may be prescribed to prevent blood clots. If you're prescribed warfarin, carefully follow your doctor's instructions. Warfarin is a powerful medication that may cause dangerous bleeding. You'll need to have regular blood tests to monitor warfarin's effects.
  • Newer anticoagulants. Several newer blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) are available to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation. These medications include dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban. They are shorter acting than warfarin and usually don't require regular blood tests or monitoring by your doctor. These medications aren't approved for people who have mechanical heart valves.

Many people have spells of atrial fibrillation and don't even know it — so you may need lifelong anticoagulants even after your rhythm has been restored to normal.
Left atrial appendage closure

Your doctor may also consider a procedure called left atrial appendage closure.

In this procedure, doctors insert a catheter through a vein in the leg and eventually guide it to the upper left heart chamber (left atrium). A device called a left atrial appendage closure device is then inserted through the catheter to close a small sac (appendage) in the left atrium.

This may reduce the risk of blood clots in certain people with atrial fibrillation, as many blood clots that occur in atrial fibrillation form in the left atrial appendage. Candidates for this procedure may include those who don't have heart valve problems, who have an increased risk of blood clots and bleeding, and who are aren't able to take anticoagulants. Your doctor will evaluate you and determine if you're a candidate for the procedure.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You may need to make lifestyle changes that improve the overall health of your heart, especially to prevent or treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Your doctor may suggest several lifestyle changes, including:
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat a healthy diet that's low in salt and solid fats and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise daily and increase your physical activity.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke and can't quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you break a smoking habit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease. Healthy weight loss can help to manage symptoms of atrial fibrillation and may improve the results of catheter ablation.
  • Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Make lifestyle changes and take medications as prescribed to correct high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Binge drinking (having five drinks in two hours for men or four drinks for women) can increase your chances of atrial fibrillation. In some people, even modest amounts of alcohol can trigger atrial fibrillation.
  • Maintain follow-up care. Take your medications as prescribed and have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor. Tell your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
Preparing for your appointment

If you think you may have atrial fibrillation, it is critical that you make an appointment with your family doctor. If atrial fibrillation is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. However, you may be referred to a doctor trained in heart conditions (cardiologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot to discuss, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do
  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your dietary intake. You may need to do this if your doctor orders blood tests.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to atrial fibrillation.
  • Write down key personal information, including any family history of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes, and any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand and remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important, in case time runs out. 

For atrial fibrillation, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
  • What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
  • What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • What's the most appropriate treatment?
  • What foods should I eat or avoid?
  • What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
  • How often should I be screened for heart disease or other complications of atrial fibrillation?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist? (You may need to ask your insurance provider directly for information about coverage.)
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor
  • Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may save time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
The above information was obtained from the Mayo Clinic website. 

If you are experiencing Afib, any of the signs and symptoms, please get checked. 

Tom Correa