Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gone But Never Forgotten

I've wrote a lot about my grandpa from my daddy and even my mama's memories. I never had the opportunity to know him but those memories have been shared in poems and short stories. I've wrote about how much he was respected and how much he helped so many people in so many ways.  I've also mentioned how he and my daddy and uncle run a little gristmill for so many years and the gristmill was located on the exact, same spot where my house is today. I've also told how I can sometimes hear the echoes of that little gristmill and the many happenings that surrounded it. Many people came from far and near, some with wagon loads of corn and some with toe sacks on their back.  That little gristmill sure was a popular place since so many came to depend on it and my grandpa for their bread.

I've been told by many older folks how well he was loved and how much his hard work and dedication never went unnoticed. Many said that if they needed bread for their families they knew he would open the gristmill up even on the sabbath just to grind their corn so their families wouldn't go hungry. In one of my poems I wrote a verse that included this stanza, “ He worked hard to feed a generation's hungry heart.” And that he did, in so any memorable ways.

I can't express enough how much it means to have his obituary from an old local newspaper. We never did know much about him and his ancestors except what daddy told about his dad and mom.  Daddy told how they'd come to visit for a week or so. His daddy had about 3 or 4 brothers and a sister. Daddy talked about some of them, especially one uncle and how he used to spend the night with him and his wife. That was the one he told about his aunt piling the quilts on the bed and when he awoke the next morning there's be snow laying on top of the quilts that had blown through the cracks during the night.

My grandpa passed away on a cold, winter morning on January 21st 1937 and his obituary was printed in the January 28th 1937 edition of our local paper. It was found by my son Chris and we'll forever be grateful to him for finding it.  To some a simple little obituary might not mean much but when there's so much history attached to it of a man that was bigger than life it means the world to me and my family.
It says at the time of his death he had one grandson but he actually only had his oldest grandchild which was a granddaughter. Today he has 8 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and 16 great, great grandchildren. 

According to my daddy and mama he'd had problems with his legs for many years. Back then they didn't go to doctors and only used home remedies. He dragged his old legs around and never complained for years. It didn't matter how bad they hurt he always went about his business of planting big corn fields, gardens, snaking out wood for the winter's heat and running the little gristmill. My daddy and his brother helped him and he taught them so much about determination and hard work and that no matter how hard things get not to give up. My daddy told that the only schooling he and his brother got was a day here and there. They'd take off towards the little one room school house and stay a few hours and hurry home to help their daddy plow the fields or run the gristmill, etc. My daddy said, that my grandpa insisted they get all the schooling they could but it just wasn't possible back then.  My grandpa kept dragging his old legs and going till they set up blood poison and God called him home on that cold January day.

As I read this obituary which is very small, many memories came to mind of what my daddy told not only about my grandpa's life but also about his death. Back then folks kept their loved ones at home because there wasn't any funeral homes and if there had been they couldn't afford the expense.  And other family, friends and neighbors would come in and help them sit up with the body, especially at night.
My daddy told how he and his brother helped to build their daddy's coffin and helped to dig his grave. He also said that he and his mother laid him out in the coffin. She washed the body and cleaned him up nice and he placed coins on his eyes till they stayed shut. I can only imagine how hard that must have been. Since my daddy was born January 18th 1904 he was considered a young man at 33 years old and since my uncle was born in 1914 he was only 23 years old.

When it came time for the service they loaded the coffin on the old wagon that cold January day. My daddy said it was the very wagon that his daddy taught him how to drive and handle the mules and used for so many other purposes over the years. There was nary a road that old wagon didn't travel down.

When they got to the church they helped carry his body inside the church for the service and to the cemetery for burial.  My daddy told how hard it was to say good by to a man that stood so tall in his eyes and he admired so much. He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do at that time in his life. His daddy was his hero and every day that my daddy lived he practiced what he was taught and lived by the standards he grew up with and set before him. He and his brother continued on running the little gristmill for many years and kept many families from going hungry. My dad always said, “if you have bread and water it's more than ye was promised.”

We go back quite often to visit his resting place. His beloved wife (my grandma) was put beside him in February 1960. I've always heard to give flowers to the living but in my heart I know the flowers we place are a token of the love that we will forever hold dear and I just know that they both are waiting for the day when we will all be together again.

Today as I write this I think about the many changes that's taken place since those long ago days. Now days if folks don't have their funerals prearranged they're in a whole heap of trouble and can not even imagine how high a shopping trip it can be. And the funeral homes want their money up front before they'll even embalm the body or announce their obituary, etc. In this very newspaper which happens to be our local paper where my grandpa's obituary was found it now costs 80 dollars to place an obituary in the paper.
I know the funeral homes are scared they won't get their money cause some may have not paid their bill but it sure makes it hard on poor folks that's from paycheck to paycheck to come up with it on the spot. When a person's life is over and God calls them home I think they should be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve and their families should receive that same respect. Sadly, today it's about the all mighty dollar.

 My husband and I prearranged ours back in 2012 and it cost over 7 thousand dollars for each of us. I can only imagine what folks are having to come up with today, especially the ones that don't have it prearranged.  Most are having to take out loans. It costs more to die now days than to be born. I personally think if folks would go back to the old days when they kept their folks at home and all the men in the community came together and helped dig the grave and build the coffin it'd hit the funeral homes a happy natural. But with all the new laws now days that's not apt to happen. I know for a fact if my dad, his brother and my grandpa were still here they'd be willing to jump in and dig graves over the community and whatever it took to help their family, friends and neighbors out, laws or no laws. They'd even use dynamite if needed like daddy said they had to do back then when they hit those big rocks and I guarantee it not to cost a war pension like it does today.

Reading this little obituary has brought back to life a giant of a man that left a legacy behind so big 81 years later that will forever linger in the many hearts he touched. He's sure touched my heart and old memories have a way of bringing the past back to life and the forever love that's filled this granddaughter's heart even though I never had the chance to meet him.

In Memory of my Grandpa
Forever in our hearts
Gone but never forgotten

© Susie Swanson, 2018

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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 69
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, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year

Since this is my first Post for 2018 I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

I found this pic on Pinterest and lots of stories and poems ran through my mind of a family that lived their lives in this little house. I can hear the laughter and all the joy inside and out. I can see all the children running around the house and playing and I could write so much about it.

But... even though it looks like it's Fall in the pic there's another story that comes to mind of what my daddy told many years ago and the hard winters they had to endure. I can hear him talking about a little house such as this in my mind and how cold it could be during those cold winters. He said he used to go and visit his uncle and aunt quite often and would stay a few days with them when he was a young man. He talked about it being so cold that his aunt had piled so many quilts on the bed  he couldn't move till morning and when he woke up the next morning there'd be snow laying on top of the many quilts. It had blown through the cracks during the night. I asked him when he was telling about it if he woke up with snow on his whiskers and he said, "No I slept with my head buried under the covers as well."  He said, even though they kept a roaring fire going in the fireplace and the wood cook stove it was still a very cold, little house .

He also said that it wasn't much different at his own house. His mama (my grandma) would pile those quilts and blankets on the bed to keep them warm and that floor was cold as ice when his feet hit it the next morning. After he and his daddy and mama ate their breakfast he and his daddy would take off towards the barn to feed and milk the old cow and head towards the woods to snake out more wood to keep the fires going. This was after they'd burned up all the wood they'd worked so hard to snake out during the summer months. Daddy's job was to cut the kindling to start the fires in the heater and stove. He always cut it form pine trees and he kept a kindling box at the back of the wood heater and he'd cut enough to fill that box back up. Folks had it rough back then but they always managed to get by with what little they had.

I remember when I was growing up we didn't see any snow laying on the many quilts that mama had made and piled on the beds but it was still very cold when our feet hit the floor in the mornings. Daddy and mama kept a fire going in the wood heater and the wood cook stove also but there were lots of mornings mama had to break ice in the buckets of spring water we'd carried in the night before. It seemed the fire in the cook stove had died down and  it was cold as ice in that little kitchen. But by the time she got breakfast cooked and on the table it was warm again. Daddy and the older boys stayed busy splitting the night's wood and carrying it in. My job was carrying in the many buckets of water. I thought for years my name was "go fetch." We sure did use that water up in a hurry. But it was still daddy's job to cut the kindling and fill the box up behind the stove.

Yep, we had our chores to do and knew when to do them but I wouldn't trade my childhood for nothing. We sure made a lot of memories back then, enough to last a lifetime.

I know it's a cold time right now and down right brutal in some places but I'll have to say, we've got it good compared to what it was back then. I'm so grateful for a warm bed and a roof over my head more each day. God surely does pour out his Blessings!

                                               © Susie Swanson, 2018