We lined up outside the infirmary and, as we got near the door, we were told to pull our left arms out of our shirts. Inside the infirmary I saw a very surprising sight: a young cow, hitched to a desk, wearing a leather bandage over its eyes. When I got close enough for my turn, to my horror I saw the doctor reach into the cow’s hide with his forceps, cut off one of the pustules the cow seemed to be covered with, and dip his scalpel into the severed pustule. Then he rapidly jabbed the scalpel three times into my upper arm. This procedure didn’t seem to hurt the cow at all and it didn’t hurt me either.
But when I described all this years later in Hollywood to my doctor and yachting companion, Bert Woolfan, he told me I was full of flit, that I must be dreaming, that no tehcnique such as I described had been used since the beginning of the nineteenth century, that I had obviously confused a steel engraving of an early Edward Jenner experiment with a recollection of my own, that since 1850 it had been done with vaccines, that there hadn’t been a live cow in a hospital since Grant took Richmond, etc. But the good doctor was wrong. Exactly what I described happened to me when I was in the thirteenth class of the Lycée Janson de Sailly on the avenue Henri Martin (now Georges Mandel) in Paris in about 1907.
- Preston Sturges, Preston Sturges