As the years stack up on you, from time to time you need to visit the local medicine man for a little assistance. I’m not real sure when every healer became a specialist and presently can only offer some relief on certain parts of your anatomy (That’s city slang for yo’ wore out, hard worked body.).
Friends, I realize it has been longer than I like to admit, but believe it or not, there was a time in history that a Doctor could and would perform on the entire carcass. This situation has gotten so technical when you finally, if possible, get an appointment to see a doctor about yo’ left big toe on yo’ right foot, the dilemma ends with, “well I’m sorry, I only work on left feet and I don’t engage in big toes, only small ones.” Now back to the cotton field to search and hopefully locate another specialist.
My friends would have had a rough time growing up and surviving, trying to make through this ordeal. Have you ever just sat down and thought about the many times you got hurt, why you got hurt and what you had to do to relieve and get rid of the hurt? Sough in coal oil and maybe smear on yellow salve, normally used for cuts on our Hampshire sow. Possibly grind in some gummy pine-tar dug out of a bent can with a nice clean(???) screwdriver or maybe spoon-serve with a hand-held hoe sharpening file. You might try to stop the blood flow with some Days Work ‘toe-backy’ juice.
Momma had her own personal cure-alls and self-proclaimed remedies. Although not claiming to hold a Doctor’s degree from “skint-knee” university or the academy of nail-punctures, many times Momma would sling the dish cabinet door wide open, seemingly tearing it off the tan colored hinges. Professionally she’d grab a white pint bottle, shaking it vigorously, like wringing a chickens neck and light in forecasting the upcoming torture of “a little…(al- kee- hall). Continuing with, “this might sting, just a little.” (Actually it would set you on fire). Furthermore you would engage in a high stepping war dance that Tonto and Little Beaver would be very, very proud to witness.
Remember how you could locate the broken bottom of a Double Cola bottle in the middle of a newly plowed cotton patch? How? Mr. Ben’s grocery store cold drink box was several miles away. This always occurred during a cotton row, hopping race when low and behold, you would slice your heel wide open. With assistance, of course, it is back to the coal oil vat securely hidden in the shed.
Friends, while camouflaging as a highly skilled, field hand Rosemark temporary medic, my very dear friend ‘Rabbit’, would strip-tear some rags to hinder the flow. Don’t worry whether or not they were clean even though the see-through cloth had been laying in the barn hen’s nest for six months. The problem being, one must try to stop what little blood your anemic skinny body was pumping.
Why go to all this trouble? Well first there would be a good honey-suckle fence row scolding. Then a trip to ‘Doc’ Flippin’s for the dreaded long needle called a ‘tet’nus’ shot, that hurt worse than the injury. Maybe some country cat-gut back ’en, appropriately called, stitches. More scolding and additional nursing from Momma. Pamper the wound for three years until you got better and most important, learned better.
Neighbor, relax and recollect how many times you and your growing up friends were close to meeting your maker or at least you thought so.
Don’t fudge too much, but remember there were times you didn’t want anyone to know how you had messed up and still came away still in one piece? If the truth was really known you’d have probably set up a tent at ‘Doc’ Peter Flippin’s or Dr. Sid’s healing offices. The only problem would have been you would have had to stand up the entire visit. Why? Because yo’ Momma would have had those Roebucks smoking after you got caught.
Beloved, as you casually glance at the scars and rips, can you still describe in detail how each happened and where each occurred? Yep, you survived the school of hard knocks and in most cases graduated the top of the class of “summa’ cuma’ lawdy mercy”.
We’d fall, squall, bawl and climb the wall, but we survived ... 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.