Hand Me the Kerosene

| 5/25/2018 8:54:00 AM

farm signI am just recovering from one of the worst bouts of flu I've had in years. As I sat quietly on the porch this morning eating breakfast for the first time in several days I thought back to my childhood and all the times we had been ill or wounded. And I began to remember how Mother and Granny handled it.

Times were much different back then. We were very poor, and didn't just run to the doctor for any old ailment. It had to be life threatening, before we drove the 30 miles over that dirt road with some emergency cash taken from the fruit jar buried under the wood pile. As country folk, we had different methods of dealing with sickness on the farm.

My great-great grandmother Elizabeth was an herbalist and had acted as a sort of doctor and local midwife for this area when Granny was growing up. She had passed down to Granny many recipes for herbal remedies, which Granny kept made up either by her own hand, or paid the local pharmacist to do (Eucalyptus is hard to come by in Northwest Arkansas). She never wrote any of these down and I wish she had.

I know we used Mullen plant in the cough syrup, and some sort of tree bark for headaches. But I was very small and, while I remember helping Granny to gather things from the woods, I didn't take much notice of what they were. Later on, as it became easier to get medicines over the counter, these remedies were left to fall by the wayside. Now, fifty years on, I am beginning to question the wisdom of that.


Of course, there were other remedies that should have been abandoned. Usually, the first thing my family reached for in a time of crisis was kerosene. Yes, you read that right.