Depression-Era First Aid: Egg Skin

Colorado woman recalls her father patching her cuts with egg skin "stitches" during the depression era.

Billy Goat

Don't mess with a billy goat, or you might just get the horns!


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The playground of our one-room country school was alive with boys and girls, ages six through thirteen. It was recess and we stood in clusters watching the bigger boys who were teasing a billy goat that had strayed from the farmyard across the road. The boys got a thrill out of holding the goat by his horns while he wrestled and tried his best to get away from them. When at last he freed himself, he took after the closest one in sight.

"Look out, Juanita!" someone shouted, but the warning came too late. Before I knew what was happening, the billy hit me and I went sprawling to the ground. I was helped up, but I must have been a gruesome sight. The goat's horn had ripped the skin under my chin and left it hanging loose, dripping blood onto my clean dress.

The teacher came, took one look and sent for the lady across the road. They attempted to clean me up but were overwhelmed at the sight of the gaping wound. Not knowing what more to do, they folded a clean flour sack into a triangular sling, placed the wide part under my chin and knotted the ends on top of my head. "She'll have to have stitches," the neighbor lady said. And the teacher agreed.

My Uncle Ed, who was still going to school, was instructed to take me home on his horse. On the way we discussed doctors. I couldn't remember ever going to one and the thought of doing so was frightening. Stitches sounded like needles. I was afraid.

Mama was nearly hysterical when she saw me. I'm sure she thought her darling would never be the same.

Dad was more calm. He had grown up in a family of ten children and had seen similar sights. Drawing on old memories of how his mother dealt with emergencies, he came up with a solution.

He got a pan of warm water and a wash cloth. Gently, he sponged the blood away so he could survey the damage.

"Get me a raw egg," he said.

I'm sure Mama thought he was out of his mind, but she did as he said. He broke the egg into a dish and carefully peeled the inner skin away from the shell. Then he pulled the edges of my torn skin together and placed the thin, slimy membrane from the egg across the tear. As the egg skin dried, it drew my skin even tighter.

After giving the wound several days to heal, Dad soaked the egg skin off with warm water. Mama was surprised to see that I only had a thin hairline scar.

For a long time after that incident, brother and I insisted on egg skin bandages for all our minor cuts. We even went so far to brag to our playmates, "We don't go to the doctor, our Dad just patches us up with egg skin."

Juanita Urbach
Brush, Colorado

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.