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Aspirin, Bellybuttons, and Band-Aids

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

Ah, spring.

This past weekend presented a couple of perfect 70F days with little or no wind and so we set out to rake and plant and sow seeds and celebrate the coming of a verdant summer filled with the smell of roasting brats and roses. Sunday evening, as we sat on the deck overlooking our day's work with a cold beverage in hand, it started. The first itch.

By Monday morning, my neck, nose (nothing's sacred) and chin were blistered. By Tuesday, the small families of ivy rash had moved to the top of my feet and legs. Clearly, maximum doses of Benadryl and witch hazel weren't doing the job, so I cried uncle and called the clinic.

It was fairly obvious to my fellow patients why I was there. "Did you try a mud poultice?" A sweet voice whispered over her Ladies Home Journal. "Witch hazel" I replied. She nodded.

My mother grew aloe vera plants and at the onset of a rash, burn or cut would snap the end off a stalk, spit the shoot in half and Band-Aid the gooey mess to the injury.

We all have our traditions. I thought I'd share some from "American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940."

  • Colds: Turpentine and lard rubbed on the chest. If turpentine isn't available, use coal oil or kerosene.

  • Measles and Smallpox: Dried and baked sty-pig dung made into a tea. Sheep dung works too.

  • Sore Throat: place a small amount of powdered sulphur in a paper funnel, and place the small end of the funnel in the sufferer's oral cavity and blow. If the victim coughs or blows first, the cure becomes a two-fer.

  • Motion sickness and allergies: place an aspirin in your bellybutton and secure it in place with a Band-Aid

  • Warts: gather as many pebbles as you have warts, rub one pebble on each wart, then take them to a crossroads and throw the pebbles over your left shoulder. The warts will go with them.

  • Warts (version 2): Take a chunk of dried mud fallen from a hoof of a mule, and rub it on the wart. Spit on the under side of the chunk, and then place it on a gatepost.

  • Stiff neck: wrap a pair of underdrawers which have been worn more than two days around the neck.

A cortisone shot and a day one dose of my methylprednisolone multipack complete, I look almost human. But it probably wouldn't hurt to tape an aspirin to my bellybutton.

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