Rotor Rage

In 1965, use of DDT was rampant. But Lorrie Otto, mover and shaker, got things going.

by Lorrie Otto

Lorrie Otto photo.I appeared at my Bayside Village Hall. They had been spraying DDT for mosquito control or squirting it up into elm trees along the streets while encouraging private property owners to do likewise for elm beetles. The only recollection I have of that evening is of a man slamming his fist on the table and shouting, “Young lady, keep your mouth shut or this will reverberate all the way to the halls of Congress.” He was right. A short time later Senator Gaylord Nelson quoted me…

Other people’s words were in the paper as well. George Hafstad, a pathologist with the Agriculture Department, cited a study in which prisoners were fed small amounts of DDT daily for 18 months without ill effects. Charles Koval, entomologist with the University of Wisconsin Extension, said that DDT wasn’t nearly as bad as the chlordane we were sprinkling on our lawns. There was a ring of truth to that. While planting bulbs one autumn day, I accidentally shook some powder on an angleworm. That poor creature twisted, twirled and writhed. Never again! Those were fuzzy, unhappy, helpless days in my life.

Helicopter spraying was the next heinous tool used. The men who did the spraying insisted birds were not harmed. “Birds see the plane coming and fly away,” they said. Notices appeared in our mailboxes suggesting that we cover the birdbaths and put our cars in a sheltered place. Our village manager asked: “What do you want, Mrs. Otto? Birds or trees?”

On April 14, 1965, at 6:30 a.m., my husband yelled, “Helicopter!” I jumped out of bed, ran down the hall, into the attic, out of the dormer window, climbed the roof to the ridgepole, stood up and shook my fist at the pilot as he flew by…


With permission from Lorrie Otto and CNRA, excerpted from DDT, CNRA and Me.