Saturday, September 22, 2007

Folk Remedies

We had a neighbor when we were growing up that knew everything. She had views on cuisine, child development, horticulture and insect management. I have no doubt that if you started a conversation on quantum physics that she would speak with authority about quarks, neutrinos and inherent problems with the space time continuum as viewed from our vantage point in West Pratt. But her main strength was in folklore. She could whip up a poultice to treat fever blisters, canker sores, boils, and planter’s warts. She had an elixir for shin splints, neck cricks, gardener’s elbow and flatulence. She could treat most of your every day maladies but drew the line at your diphtherias and plagues and left them to professional doctoring. But she did come up with one remedy that stands out in my mind.
I was in the forth of fifth grade at the time and had come down with chicken pox. No big deal you usually let the ailment run its course and it was over in a week or so. My condition was no different except for the fact that I was supposed to be going to a fall festival dance at Dora Elementary school and I didn't want to go with these big honkin' pock marks all over my face and neck. I had seen kids with slight defects who were mocked and jeered unmercifully. I hated to contemplate my fate with the pock marks all over me.
When my mom explained my dilemma, the neighbor immediately came up with a solution. The neighbor started explaining all the particulars of an untested cure that she had heard about through her medicine-man grapevine. I could see doubt seeping in around my mother's eyes as she said "uh-huh, I see." My mom is a pragmatic woman and her “bull malarkey” detector went off frequently when she conversed with the neighbor, but I was in such a state that mother was willing to try anything so she proceeded with the unconventional folk remedy.
The next morning my mother instructed me to take my shirt off and lie down in the doorway between the kitchen and living room. She then - (I'm not pulling your leg here though my mother denies it until this day) got our Rhode Island Red rooster from the pen and set it down in the kitchen and proceeded to shoo it until it flew over me as I reclined in the doorway. So far, so good – but then came the task of removing the chicken. She then had to chase that freaked out rooster all around the inside of the house as it careened off the chiffrobe, the mantel, the TV and the windows as it tried to make its escape. She finally cornered it in the bedroom and returned it to the pen but not before it dropped feathers (and worse) all over the house.
The theory was that when I woke up the next day, the encounter with the rooster would somehow make the chicken pox disappear from my body.
The next morning I got up expectantly but when I looked in the mirror, the red splotches were still there. The next evening when I was supposed to go to the dance, mother went to plan B which was to put some of my sister's make-up on my face and neck to hide the blotches.
As expected, I was the brunt of some very cruel jokes but my “date” at the dance was kind enough not to mention my malady and mean enough to chide most of the most vocal tormentors into silence.
Our neighbor was a kind soul and to her credit she did cure a lot of aches and pains in our community in those days. I should also point out that she also did not guarantee the flying chicken therapy would cure my pocks.

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