Thank goodness I am on the tale end of a bad cold. The Boss has done real good with putting up with it. I may have even worn out the sympathy card. Advances in medicine have developed techniques of reattaching severed limbs, organ transplants, and I have even seen a picture where a lab rat had a cloned human ear growing on its back. (Now that was gross) Why is it that if we go to the doctor with a terrible case of a “bad cold”, all we hear is “drink lots of liquids, take Tylenol and give me 93.74 (ninety three dollars and seventy four cents). Now doesn’t that make you feel all better now, but “show me the cure”. I borrowed that last tag line from Wendy’s but changed it up a bit.
We are bracing for a cold front to come through later today, but it is here a little early. After the same old "bring in pizza" and stretching out with the paper towel ottoman routine, I thought back to that old wood heater.
One weekend, long ago, my Grandma and Aunt came to visit us and it had just come a big cold spell. Daddy had the old wood heater roaring full force and it was a puffing and heaving to get more air. The front had a round snout with little triangular vent windows, three of them, and they were flared wide open. Sort of put in mind of a jack-o-lantern except there were two eyes, a nose but no mouth, all glowing hellish orange drawing deep breaths in order to feed the flames.
Aunt Sybil had three boys at the time but I can only remember one being there. John Wayne, my cousin, and I both had bad colds. The day had worn on and something was said about “doctoring” our colds before they had to leave. John Wayne being the oldest got to go first. Aunt Sybil had John Wayne stand next to the heater and open his mouth for his first “dose”. Several drops of coal oil (kerosene) was dripped onto a round tablespoon of sugar and stuck into John Wayne’s open mouth.
“John Wayne, take that now. I ain’t got all day.” Her voice sounded suspiciously as if this might not be the end of it.
“Unnnnaahhh.” John Wayne tried to shake his head no.
“Close that mouth.”
Eyes closed tight and a big frown, he made loose with a little foot stomping dance, but swallowed his “medicine.”
“Now open up again.”
I guess he thought I was going to somehow save him as he cut his eyes over at me, but I wasn’t going to step in. Heck, he was older than me, he was on his own. With a defeated look he finished his dance and stood back beside the heater and opened his mouth for continued administration of his cure.
“Where’s the Vicks Salve?” Aunt Sybil looked over at Daddy but still keeping one eye on John Wayne as Daddy handed her the blue jar with the green top. With one swift motion, she spun the top off, dipped in with her finger and withdrew a glob of the translucent wonder salve.
“Stick out your tongue.” A quick swipe and the vaporous glob disappeared into John Wayne’s mouth. The dance regained its momentum. He had been “doctored”.
Now it was my turn. I didn’t figure I would get the same prescription because both of those treatments were totally new to me. I had a pretty good idea of the trail I was fixing to hike. Daddy had already fashioned something that looked like a bib. Well, I guess it was a bib; a square piece of cloth, about the size of a wash cloth, torn from an old sheet. Two torn strips of the sheet were tied to corners of the bib, making tie string to hold it around my neck. A liberal amount of the Vicks Salve was smeared over one surface of the bib and held close to the huffing heater to help “activate” its healing power.
“Get over here, Boy.” I knew from the sideways grin there wasn’t any room for foolishness so I turned away from the heater and the gooey side of the “plaster” was stuck to my chest. The vapors jumped straight up into my nasal passages. The warmth and sensation was a surprising relief from the cold air. The good part was over. Out comes the dreaded yellow box; the notorious Black Draught, pronounced “black-draw”, such a fitting title. Black Draught is supposedly a nature herb product. It is ground up leaves of some sort that look like sage with the same taste except mix in a little bit of creosote and dried goat dung and I think you just about have it. A heaping teaspoon, or larger depending on size and age, is taken dry but immediately “chased” with some form of large volume liquid; and wait. If you believe in the “flushing” of poison from you system, this is your ticket. Now, I was doctored.
I don’t know if all that worked but we did get over our colds at some point. I am not sure but probably this method of treatment is just an old country unproven remedy. Now that I am all grown up and moved out of that hand hewn log cabin and live in modern civilization, I am sure that type of treatment is just a lot of foolery. But you know what, I kind of like the smell of Vicks Salve. Truthfully, I have a jar on my night stand. The Boss sometimes tells me that it reminds me of her mother. Actually, I sometimes use it for lip balm or other purposes, I know it probably doesn’t work but I like the smell but I really hate getting tangled up in those danged tie straps around my neck.