It’s plumb amusing. I’m talking about all the drugs and medicines and cures and remedies and cure-alls you see advertised in on TV and in magazines. You know what I mean–one page telling how great this new concoction is…and then three pages telling of the possible side effects, in print so small an ant couldn’t read it.

You’ll see that this magic mixture can cause constipation and the scours, shortness of breath, suicidal tendencies, aggressiveness, depression, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, etc., etc.

And there’s “…if in four hours…head for the emergency room.”

Frosty brought all this to the attention of one of her doctors. He said, “Aw, quit reading that stuff.”

There are so many medical things today, prescriptive and OTC. It was much simpler in our younger days. There were a few essentials that kept us alive. One was Vick’s salve, in the little bitty container. You were supposed to just put it around the edges of your nostrils, but we crammed it in, and then swallowed a little bit of it. It, or a knock-off, still stays within reach of the bedside.

Another essential, and I’m surprised that doctors don’t recommend it, was coal oil, kerosene to you city folks. It was the go-to remedy for any kind of wound you might suffer around the farm and there were plenty of possibilities. You might get stuck with a pitchfork while hauling hay. Soak it in coal oil. If you smashed a toe on a rock, go to the coal oil.

If you operated on a male pig, soak that wound in coal oil and pretty soon, he wouldn’t even remember what happened.

We spent half our lives with a rag around a wounded toe that had been treated with coal oil, the same stuff we used in our lamps.

But the real stopper, the closer, as they would call it in baseball, was castor oil The castor oil people should put a picture of Daddy in their Hall of Fame. Castor oil was his ultimate cure for anything from dandruff to one of those hanging-on colds that just wouldn’t go away.

We’ll fix that, by George. Out would come the bottle of castor oil, with a tablespoon and an orange.

He’d warm the bottle in front of the fire, to make it easier to take; and if you think warm castor oil is bad, try it cold!. He’d cut a hole in the orange with his Case pocket knife, and squeeze it to get the juices flowing.

Then … three tablespoons full, down the hatch. “Now, suck the orange, suck the orange!” That helped some, I suppose, although it turned some people against oranges for life. Groves went out of business because of castor oil.

But, by tomorrow, you’d be cured.

Uncle Harvey invented a medicine that he claimed would cure anything from pimples to cancer. It contained some serviceberry bark. He pronounced it “sarvice” bark. He would go down in our bottom to some secret place he knew where the rare “sarvice” tree grew. The other main ingredient, Daddy snorted, was whiskey.

Gret-Uncle Harvey, you’ll recall, was a very talented man.A poet, even. He composed the famous poem that starts, “’Neath the spreading white oak tree, the village…”

We’ve often wondered how any of us ever reached adulthood. So many hazards. Intimate relations with axes and saws and hoes and rakes and pitchforks and sickle bar mowers and knives; and livestock. Even a good mule could have a bad day and hurt you.

And we must have built up some more immune systems. We walked around barefooted in places that are guaranteed to give you lockjaw. We swam in creeks that had many outdoor bathrooms contributing to their flow. Even the wells and springs we drank from probably wouldn’t have passed a test today.

But…here we are.


Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.