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Apply some barnyard residue to sore place

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: December 25, 2013 6:19AM



I have been to a self-healing service and I feel just swell. Tired, but recovering nicely.

No, I was not in a religious setting, nor in a doctor’s waiting room. I was by a window early in the morning, with a mug of coffee and a glazed doughnut (medicine from heaven) bird watching and poring over two big pages of disclaimers.

It was OK for several minutes until I read this: “Don’t take this if you are breast feeding.” That rattled me. I skipped over some other advice, feeling healed so well that I forgot why I was reading this stuff. Maybe if I had continued I would have read “Take this if you voted for Obama. So there!”

Do doctors have time to read these warnings? Is there a school that trains disclaimer writers?

Back home, where I go often in memory, there were few medicines to disclaim about. Mainly, just aspirin and castor oil. Elnora’s friendly Doc Porter braved mud, wind and snow to make rural house calls, often not saying much about fees.

His office in the heart of a healthy Elnora (the town got real sick some years after he left) was upstairs, a one-room place with no real waiting room or out-of date magazines. Farm folks did not make doctor visits unless they were in dire trouble. They were too busy.

In nearby Newberry was a father-son doctor team. We called them Big Pill and Little Pill.

We heard about “Old Wives” tales remedies and I wanted so much to meet the old wife who recommended a remedy for infections: apply some barnyard residue to the sore place.

One of the popular curatives in our land of medicinal enlightenment was a “poultice,” a bag containing stuff like cooked onions and miscellany. I wore one around my neck and it touched my little feverish bosom. It made chest colds go away, besides scaring off my playmates. Even my 4-H Club pigs oinked and fled.

I wonder how the disclaimers would have handled that.

I did become a healthy kid, runty but smart — I would not eat runny eggs. And I developed muscles wrestling with the stiff sorghum molasses so that I could dab it onto our warm breakfast biscuits.

As I was recalling these days of wonder, medicinally speaking, I remembered a mention of something called horse liniment, stuff that was rubbed onto race horses’ legs. Back home it was fit for humans who had arthritis. Some experts called this a “startling” discovery, but they just had not kept up with rural discoveries.

And there was what adults called “snake bite” medicine, usually on a high shelf out of kids’ reach. I heard that my grandpa grumbled that he could not get snakes to bite no matter how hard he tried. I think he took some of the medicine just to be safe. I will never know, but that is a fun speculation.

Life in rural America when I was a castor oil poster boy was not sophisticated, but we survived tough times with the help of fellows like Doc Porter and the two Pill medics.

People may laugh at some of our back-home remedies. I can laugh because I have made it from there to here.



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