Can you remember when there was a time country doctors made house calls? How many folks can garner up a tale or two about being on their so-called death bed and the brilliant physicians came flying to the rescue. Take a slow trip down memory lane and visualize the black, faded leather medicine bag with the broken latch that probably never did work anyway.
Even faded photos, paintings or clips always depict the bag as scuffed, bulging and “pert nigh” dilapidated. However, the small, hand carried bag could hold enough supplies to overflow a cotton wagon with cracked and splintered sideboards.
Neighbor, I never saw or heard of anyone except the country doctor sticking his or her paw inside a doctor’s vault to extract any medicine except the healer himself. We talked about it occasionally. Why? Speculation or educated guessing. Each of the little glass containers with the dark red rubber tops had been punctured many times with needles appearing the size of squirrel rifle barrels. Especially when the needle was spearheaded your way. The shiny tin encased the top of the bottle to hold the rubber in place. Most of the little bottles had no labels. Like the good vet “Doc” Hall from Kerrville took a short whiff or possibly stuck the humanitarian’s tongue to the top to decipher the contents. Maybe the curer contemplated, “Well if it don’t knock me out, maybe this will get the patient back on hi feet.”
“Doc” Flippin, the genius healer from Rosemark, initially rode a horse to visit his patients. Miss Beth, his daughter, told me a few times, “When Daddy returned late at night he was so tired, one of the farmhands had to assist him from the saddle after his long and treacherous tour.”
A trek of many miles in the sleet and rain even caused the good doctor some days of hacking, fever and misery. Although “Doc” wouldn’t admit it, Miss Beth repeated the farmhand said, “I thought the doctor once was almost frozen on the mount as icicles hung from the horse’s mane and the saddle bags.”
Can anyone believe some of the cures and remedies that were dispensed many years ago? If the country doctor said, “try it,” there were no questions asked. Paregoric, since removed from the drug store shelves, would cure what ailed you. Why? Derived from opium, the morphine based narcotic would kill any pain. Upset stomach, colitis, flux diarrhea, colic, bo’ weevils, possibly chicken fighting and even Sat’dy night hair pulling.
At my early age, little did I realize the interest in the small, yellowish bottle with a red rubber cap. Many years later on the front porch of Mr. Ben’s emporium a little gossip emitted. A few “hun’ert” years ago, small country stores were prevalent every few miles. Seems like a few folks would get a little piece of money and purchase a couple of bottles of paregoric over the counter from Mr. Ben. Then ease across the road to Thompson Brothers and repeat the same. Maybe ride to Barretville and grip a couple. Transport to Mr. Hilton Bond’s and proceed to Mr. Robert Douglas’ in Bolton. By the time these folks returned home they could have petrified the entire universe of Dixie.
Did you have a sore throat? No problem, just swab with pure poison silver nitrate. Some swabs were constructed from chicken feathers shaved down to the end to resemble a modern day tickler. At least it tickled your sore throat. If silver nitrate wasn’t available, well run in a substitute miracle cure of a tablespoon of sugar with three or four drops of coal oil. I was told any more than four drops of coal oil would make you a little nauseated. That citified talk for making country folks “low” sick.
My fellow Southern Country Americans, I’m not saying what was right, left or wrong. We did what the good doctors thought was best at the time. There are jillions of so-called cures and remedies. Just how many can you recall?
Remember to shake it, take it and hope and pray you make it ... GLORY!
Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin.” He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.