The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

Peter P. Bogden, bless his departed soul, was a strong old bachelor who lived next farm over when we first moved up here 50 winters ago. He taught me a lot of things, some medical, some more practical.

Medically, what I learned from Peter P. was that, if you didn’t feel good, a tablespoon of number 1 fuel oil would fix what ailed you. His parents took it their whole lives, and so did Peter P., and they all lived long, strong lives. Well, pretty long. (Well, average, I guess.)

When I was growing up, the world had three major medical groups.  The first one was: Mercurochrome. If we kids had a sore throat, dad would get out the mercurochrome and the goose feather, tell us to say: “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh,” and quite deftly swab the red soreness at the back of our throats with a gagging red fire from hell. This produced a prolonged period of near-death by retching. It definitely drew ones attention away from the ailment. As I grew older, the number of sore throats that I suffered diminished noticeably. One might attribute this to the efficacy of the mercurochrome. One might also point to the aversive conditioning of knowing you were in for a serious mercurochroming episode if you told dad about your throat.

I just looked up mercurochrome on the Internet, because now, if one has a sore throat that lasts more than a few days, one goes to the doctor. Back then, I don’t remember those sore throats ever surviving the goose feather treatment. If I had some mercurochrome, I don’t know if anyone around could apply it, and doctors sure aren’t going to go to medical school and spend a bazillion bucks just to wield  a goose feather. 

Mercurochrome contains mercury. Not much, but from the Internet, I learned that, during the Clinton presidency, mercurochrome—despite its antiseptic abilities– was banned from production along with about anything else that had any reference to the word mercury. 

Now that I know I cannot have it anymore, I really want to try it on cuts and scrapes and tick bites and just about anything else that might come up.

The second medical group was Epsom salts. I remember ma forcing my foot into water hot enough to scald a duck, because I had perforated a toe with a pitchfork. In that water was Epsom salts; on my toe was mercurochrome. Epsom salts are named for a village in England, Epsom, where a well containing water saturated with this mineral was first discovered. It had the ability to cure a wide range of ailments: muscle aches, seizures, asthma, tomato blight,  and various physical side effects of pregnancy. Now it’s manufactured over here, and there’s even a council on Epsom salts. It appears to be really good for people. It was torture for a six-year-old, and I told ma so in no uncertain terms. She held my foot in there anyway.

The third medical group was also in that water: Liniment.

I’ve known for some time that one of my ancestors made Sloan’s Liniment for Man and Beast. It felt like it should have been used on a beast as mom held my foot in that hot water, while I hollered and squirmed. Liniment can be mixed up by anyone. It has camphor in it, which gives it that smell, oil of turpentine (I wonder if Peter P. knew about this?), and finally, capsicum pepper, which gives it its heat.

Were I in charge of the prisons, I’d put all the inmates on a preventive medical regimen of Epsom salts, liniment, and mercurochrome. Every Monday morning, line’em up for a throat swab. March them right over for a good foot scalding in Epsom salts and liniment. They’d see the light. Then, if the news media found out?

“We were just being careful so they wouldn’t get sick.” 

Did I mention cod liver oil?