Friday, January 18, 2019

Old Timey Home Remedies




 It's that time of year again when all the sneezing, snorting, blowing and coughing starts. Here's a little something I wrote a couple years ago that might be of interest. 

I remember back when I was little we hardly ever went to a doctor when we got sick. Mama would doctor us with home remedies and she really knew a lot of em. She used a lot of Save the Baby. She’d put a drop or two on sugar in a teaspoon, hold our nostrils together and blow in our face till we swallowed it. You talk about stopping a cough and curing the croup, it did. It sure did break it up and she always said a cough has got to be loosened up before it’ll stop.

I know everybody’s heard of Soltice. It came in a jar and was used to open up a chest or cough. It’d even open up ye head and make it run.  Daddy thought he needed some on his chest every night before bed. Mama said, it was just a habit.
She’d even cook up some onions and make us eat em. Supposedly, they were good for a cold and cough.
No worries when we got a chest cold or cough, we either got some good ole tasting Save the Baby, rubbed down with Solstice, or Vick’s Salve, or eat a lot of cooked onions. There were lots more remedies, to many to mention.
Daddy made up his own cough syrup every winter. He used a small amount of white liquor, honey and lemon. He’d shake it up good and hide it so none of us kids could find it. Mama always accused him of sipping on it to much.

For the sore throat it was vinegar diluted with a little water. We had to gargle it but mama gargled the vinegar full strength. She wouldn’t let us young’uns do that for fear it’d strangle us to death. 

For a nose bleed she’d take a small piece of a brown paper poke (bag) and fold it up real small and put it under the upper lip and it’d stop the blood. But most of the time she’d read the verse in the Bible, Ezekiel 16:6. It really works with faith. And camphor was used for the swimey head, also known as fainting and sick stomach. One whiff under ye nose and the sickness was gone.

For burns, scratches or cuts, Turpentine was the best remedy there was.
Mama would rub a little around our belly button to worm us. It had to many uses to name but we sure did get wormed quite often.

For bee and wasp stings she’d take a dab of snuff out of her mouth and rub on the sting to stop the hurting and draw the poison out. I don’t reckon we ever got snake bit. I’d hate to think what she would’ve done.  It was pure luck that we didn’t. I’ve heard of a lot of home remedies used for snake bite.

Oh the uses of Sassafras Tea. The root or bark was boiled into a tea and sweetened. It was used to cleanse the system of the winter blahs as they called it and whatever else was ailing ye. It was good for the kidneys, cleansing the bladder, arthritis and other aches and pains.
All the older folks spoke of it highly and were a firm believer in its healing and cleansing.

I sure can’t forget the famous Castor Oil that she loved to punish us with. Yep, that’s what I called it at the time but now that I look back on it, I can honestly say it worked. The older folks always said a good cleaning out would take care of what ailed ye, just the thoughts of the taste still makes me gag today.
We jumped for joy when Castoria came out. It actually had a better taste even though it was syrupy and we didn’t mind taking it. But when she’d come out with the Castor Oil we’d run and hide, still had to take our medicine though.
Take ye pick, Castor Oil, Castoria, Black Draught, or daddy’s all time favorite Epsom Salts. These are only a few, to many to mention. The older folks sure did believe in the cleaning out part.

My oldest brother had the earache a lot when he was little and mama would lay him over her legs and drop warm sweet oil in his ear from a teaspoon that she’d heated on the stove eye. Then she’d cover his ear with a warm rag and it’d ease his ear. And if that didn’t do the trick,  she’d take a puff off of one of daddy’s Camel or Lucky Strike cigarettes and blow in his ear. Cigarette smoke was the best medicine in the world for the earache mama proclaimed. I’ll never forget the first time we saw her do that. We all just stood there gawking. We’d never seen mama smoke in our lives and we told her of it. She said, that ain’t smoking it’s medicine.

I remember her growing a lot of catnip for the babies around. She’d boil it into a tea and add a smidgen of sugar just enough to sweeten it a little to get em to drink it in their bottle and it was good for the belly ache (Colic). She said it’d even make em sleep better. Daddy would even slip in a few sips every now and then, especially at bedtime, said it made him sleep better.

 And of course there was the Thrash (Thrush) remedy. She used some type of plant or tree leaf. She never told anyone what it was except daddy and one of my brothers. She did that so they could fetch it for her. Mama cured everyone around at one time or another over the years. Most were young’uns but quite a few grown- ups came to her with their mouth covered in blisters. She said there was three kinds of the Thrash, yellow, white and red. She could tell by looking at the blisters in their mouth what kind it was.
Word soon got around and even her doctor started sending his patients to her. She never charged a dime, said it wouldn’t have worked. No one ever knew what she did. The young'uns sure didn’t know and grown-ups were blindfolded but it did the trick and there’s a lot of folks walking around today that can attest to that, including me.

Yellow root was used for the sore mouth, among other things and ye had to chew on it. Daddy sure did chew a lot of it. He said it was using that old backer that made his mouth sore. It grew on the creek bank or the branch bank. He’d strip the leaves and bark off before he chewed it. Back then a lot of folks paid many visits to the creek bank getting Yellow Root for various reasons.
 It could also be made into a tea and drunk for stomach problems. It’s been said that it helped the kidneys, liver, digestion system, etc.

I remember us young’uns only going to a doctor a very few times. What was the use in going when we had our own medicines and own doctor. Mama even did surgery one time on my sister’s finger. She chopped it almost off with the axe. It was barely hanging on by a little skin when we all got to her. Mama took her inside and grabbed the alcohol and camphor and went to work putting that finger back together and bandaged it really good and kept a close watch on it.  The camphor was used to put under her nose to keep her from passing out during surgery.  She used enough alcohol to fill the ocean and my sister would squall out like a painter. She had to change the bandages at least twice a day but it grew back and she’s just got a small scar today.

We did have one old doctor that practiced out of his house and his wife was his nurse. We only went when we absolutely had to. The first time I ever went to him I was six years old. I’d been laid up for days with the Strep Throat. Mama first thought it was just the sore throat but as time went on my temperature went up so high she couldn’t get it down. She told daddy to load me up and take me. He gave me a shot of penicillin and it did the trick. I’m deathly allergic to penicillin today. 

I know people were a lot more healthy back in the days when all they had to use was home remedies. A lot of it can be attributed to their lifestyle, exercise and eating healthy.
Some things they used like Save The Baby can’t even be bought in a store anymore. They took it off the shelves, said it didn’t work along with lots of other stuff, go figure. They said that a lot of the old time ways were old wives tales. Well I’m here to say I’m living proof that it did work or I probably wouldn’t be still kicking. My mama knew what she was doing and she wasn’t no fool. She raised to many young’uns not to know what to do for em when they got sick. My mama was our doctor and she had plenty of common sense to go along with it. She once said, if ye depend on a doctor to do anything for ye now days you’ll die. In my book, she hit the nail on the head. If she was still here today I wonder what she’d come up with to take care of what ails me. She’d find something, I’m sure.

Personally, I’m thinking about trying the Castor Oil again, if I can get up the nerve. It’ll either cure me or kill me. Maybe we all need to go back to the old timey ways. Probably get better results and a good cleaning out never killed anybody.



I smile to think of what they used
To help us kids survive
But I am now going on 67
And very much alive

My sore throats were eased
I’m still holding onto my anchor
To think of sucking sugar lumps
With a drop or two of camphor

And camphor mixed with lard for
A winter chest congestion
Baking soda cleansed my teeth
And helped my indigestion

Because of mama’s tender heart
I hereby sing oh Gloria
For the few times she switched
Castor oil with syrupy castoria

Turpentine for tics and mosquito bites
And Turpentine on the scratches
The sickroom was fumigated with
Our sulphur kitchen matches

Somehow there’s quite a bunch of us
That’s never had a shot
But here we are still a kicking
And enjoying life a lot.

© Susie Swanson, 2019

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Our Best Childhood Friend




I know everyone remembers a favorite pet or two while growing up. We were blessed to have several dogs and cats but there’s one dog that stands out the most. His name was Ole Mack and he was a full bloodied collie and smart as a whip. He was like a human in a dog’s body and instantly became part of our family.

He’d obey every command. If we told him to sit he’d be sitting there into next week if we didn’t notice but we never did do him like that on purpose. It’s just the way he was and so kind hearted. Every step we made he was there beside us. We used to pull the blossoms off of clover after it’d bloomed and tie them together and make a necklace to wear around our neck. We’d even make one for Ole Mack and he’d just sit there and let us put it around his neck. When mama called us in to eat we’d go running and he’d run beside us with his clover necklace around his neck. The first time mama saw it she said, “what in the world have ye put around that dog’s neck.” He was our best buddy and did whatever we did.

 There was only one thing that scared him and that was thunder or the sound of a gun. Every time it’d thunder he’d run in the house and crawl under the bed. We’d leave him alone till it’d pass and coax him out. When we first got him we noticed that when my brothers or daddy grabbed the gun to go squirrel hunting we noticed the fear in him. We never did find out for sure but we always figured he’d been shot at before. We felt so sorry for him and he never did get over it.

 Back then we walked everywhere we went and every time we’d start down the road he’d be right at our heels waging that pretty tail.
Daddy worked away from home a lot and didn’t get to come home till weekends if he was lucky. Sometimes it’d be two or three weeks before he came home. I reckon mama got lonesome even with all of us youn’uns round her legs cause just about every evening in the summer she’d say let’s go see pa and ma. That was her mama and daddy and they lived upon the hill as we called it. I later realized mama got lonesome for some adult conversation.

About sundown we’d take off to see pa and ma and Ole Mack would tag along till we got to the footlog where we had to cross the little creek and we’d tell him to wait and he’d lie down at the end of the footlog till we returned later that evening. We were scared to take him with us for fear he’d tangle with other dogs. After all, he was getting older and we feared he couldn’t take up for himself as good. When we returned, he’d see us coming and run across that footlog to meet us like we’d been gone forever just wagging his tail. We’d all bend down and hug his neck and tell him he was a good boy till I think he got the big head. We always tried to get back home before dark for fear of stepping on a snake, of course Ole Mack would’ve killed it right there on the spot. He was very protective of us in a good way and always watched out for us.

Back then times were lean and not to many folks could find work and some just didn’t wanna work, they’d rather steal their way through.
Mama always had chickens that run loose and they had their favorite roosts every night. Most of em roosted in the little apple tree that hung over the branch of water that run down by the side of the house. Mama’s bedroom was on that side of the house as well and she never had to sleep alone. One or more of us always piled in the bed with her when bedtime came. She was always a light sleeper and could hear a pin drop. Ole Mack knew where her bedroom was and he slept right beside her bedroom under the porch and it was cooler on him there in hot weather. If anything moved or someone came around he’d always growl or bark to let mama know. We always called him our guard dog .

It all started one summer night when a bunch decided they wanted to steal the chickens off the roost. Mama was halfway asleep when Ole Mack started growling and then barking. They grabbed a couple of hens  and run after they heard Ole Mack growling and barking. Mama heard em too, but was afraid to go outside but she hollered at Ole Mack out the window to keep him from following em. She always said her being a woman she hated to go out on someone but if she had to she would. My oldest brother was big enough by then to use the gun but she wouldn’t let him for fear he’d shoot or get shot. But she didn’t have to worry about it cause the next night they came back.

Ole Mack first started growling and the next thing he did was tackle em. Mama and my oldest brother ran out at the same time and saw the shadows of em running fast as their legs could carry em and Ole Mack was right on their heels. They dropped the chickens in the middle of the road. On the way out the door my brother grabbed the gun and fired it straight up in the air. They run even faster and Ole Mack came running back towards the house so proud of himself. Mama said to my brother, “what’d ye do that for, they were already out of sight.” My brother said he did it more so for Ole Mack, cause he knew he was scared of guns and didn’t want him to get hurt by the chicken thieves.

Needless to say, the chicken thieves didn’t come back anymore. Mama figured it was a bunch that knew daddy was gone and could carry off what they wanted to. We really rewarded Ole Mack by trying to keep him in the house and feeding him anything he wanted as if he wasn’t fed enough. But he wouldn’t have any part of sleeping in the house at night.

Then one morning my brother went outside for something and he noticed Ole Mack wasn’t around. He called out his name and kept calling. We all went running out the door and joined in the search but no such luck.

We finally found him in the cow pasture later in the day and carried him back to the house and had the nicest memorial for him.

We buried a part of the family and our hero that day. Our hearts were broken and it was never the same anymore. He lived to the ripe ole age of fifteen and deserved his heavenly reward but there’s a place still void in our hearts today and we think about him often. I’m sure he’s up there where all good dogs go and having the best time of his life without any fears or worries about the thunder or loud noises anymore and running through the meadows with his clover necklace around his neck. Rest in peace Ole Mack, you’ll always be our Best Childhood Friend.

                                        © Susie Swanson, 2018