Valley resident Mary Jane Reed had saved memoirs about the last pandemic that occurred in 1918. The memoirs were written by her father, Ralph B. Bolles, in 1975 when he was 78 years old.

In 1918, Bolles was 21 and living in Ordway, Colo. He was farming for his father, a retired school administrator, when he was contacted by the Army: He was to be drafted, Reed said.

Bolles was looking to have his draft deferred. He approached the draft board, Reed said, and explained that he was a farmer.

Farmers producing crops or agricultural products essential to the military could be temporarily exempted from the draft, according to the Selective Service Act of May, 1917.

Bolles requested such a deferment and was told about the agricultural requirements. He followed the draft board’s instructions according to Reed, but soon after his crops had been planted, Bolles received orders to report to Camp Funston, Kan., Reed said.

“He was advised that he was required to go through basic training but could apply for a furlough to harvest his crops,” said Reed. “While he was stationed at Camp Funston the Spanish Flu epidemic hit the camp, an experience he never forgot.”

Though brief, Bolles’ memoirs provide a glimpse into the hardship he struggled against in an uncertain time of disease and war.

As Reed told the Tribune-Democrat: “In 1975, at the age of 78 with a crystal clear memory, he wrote about that experience. Herewith, in his words:”

"I was in camp only about three weeks when the flu epidemic hit and boys started dropping like flies in autumn A fellow would get up in the morning feeling alright, get sick before noon and be dead by night. Coffins would be lined up four deep and 18 or 20 long on the depot platform waiting to be shipped out every day. It seemed that the huskier they were the quicker they died. I remember a big, tough, red-headed sergeant — I thought he was just about the meanest man I ever knew — dropped over on the parade ground and we heard was dead before they got him to the hospital.

"I got the flu the second week of the epidemic and was put in a barracks building converted to a hospital in Fort Riley. Over a hundred boys were on cots so close together there was just barely room for an attendant to get between to take temperatures and give the aspirin pills. There was one doctor and one nurse and a lot of what care the boys got was from those not so sick. I would lie there and watch them pull the sheet up over a boy who didn't make it and as they would carry him out I would think they are not going to do that to me. I've got to get home and get those crops harvested.

"After a boy's temperature was down to normal twenty four hours, he would be sent back to his company where he could take it easy for a couple of days, then back in the grind. Soon after getting back from the hospital , instead of getting my furlough I was transferred to a replacement draft that was to go to France to replace the casualties of the Rainbow Division. I was sent to Fort Riley where we were to get our overseas equipment and entrain for the coast. But the camp was still under quarantine, due to the flu, so we just sat there. After the quarantine was lifted we still just sat for a week or ten days, then heard the armistice was signed so we wouldn't be going over. Although, an officer did come through and tell us that any one who would enlist for three years would be sent over to Germany for occupational duty. I don't know if he got any takers. Not me.“

Bolles, the father of Reed and Jan McNeff, and the grandfather of Susie Matthewson and Jay Millard, managed the Western Canning Company — the one that would later become the pickle company, Reed said — on the west tip of La Junta from 1936 to 1951.