Winter winds its way through the hills, sometimes pausing to spread another blanket of snow on ground that is already white, other times calling forth the bitter winds that whip the tree branches to and fro.
We had a snow that was perfect for sleigh riding. It was too dry to make a snow man or snow balls, but just right to swoop off the hill on a sled or an inner tube. The children here made good use of the snowfall, bundled to the ears and beyond, they rode until well after dark on the wings of the wind.
Our new neighbors who moved here from Florida were enthralled. Sandy especially was thrilled to the toes of her high topped boots. She had never experienced winter weather, and was beginning to feel disgusted when we kept having the warm, spring like weather. “Shucks,” she kept saying. “This just feels like winter in Florida.”
We were worried that she couldn’t adapt to a West Virginia winter after spending her life in Florida. She received several pair of long handled underwear for Christmas from her concerned friends. We needn’t have worried. She took to the snow like a duck to water.
Her husband, Chester, is not a stranger to the snow or to these parts either. He is the grandson of Ledger and Retta (Hanshaw) Brown, and has set up residence on his grandmother’s home place. He left a thriving tire business in Florida to come home to a slower pace of life. He has gone into business as “Mountain Man Tires.”
As I watch the grandchildren cavort in the snow, I think of how much warmer they dress than we used to. We had never heard of a pair of insulated coveralls, or a ski mask, or gloves that repelled moisture. There was always a gap between our pants legs and the top of our arctics that attracted the snow. Our mittens would become soggy, and freeze on our hands
At any rate, my sleigh riding days are over, and I will gladly turn it over to Sandy to reap all the fun she missed as a kid. She hasn’t tired of it yet.
Along with the winter fun, there are winter woes. Colds and sore throats are more prevalent, although we have more to treat them with now. My sister Mary Ellen was questioning me about a medicine that our neighbors, the Everson’s, used when we were little. She said it was called “Golden Promise” or “Golden Offering” or something like that.
I told her that sounded like a perfume, and didn’t she think it might be “Goldenseal?” “No,” she replied. “I know what goldenseal is. Anyway Grandpa called it yaller root.” Come to find it out, it was called “Golden Relief.” Mary Ellen said she liked it—a couple of drops was applied to a teaspoon of sugar and swallowed. I don’t remember taking it though.
Yellow root was a different story. The roots of this goldenseal plant was thoroughly washed, then steeped in boiling water. It was used for a gargle for sore throat, canker sores, athlete’s foot, colds and flu, sinusitis, sties, wounds, and yeast infections. The only drawback was its bitter taste.
“At least,” she went on, “We didn’t have to take castor oil.” I looked at her in astonishment. “You didn’t?” I managed to stutter. “Why, did you?” she asked. Did I? Every time I looked cross-eyed, I got a dose of castor oil. I got it if I took a cold, or if it looked as if I were taking a cold. They gave me a dose if I had a diarrhea or if I was constipated. I don’t know how Mary Ellen escaped. Maybe by the time she reached castor oil age, they found out the castor bean was poisonous.
We all got our share of Jayne’s PW pills, whether we needed them or not. I’m sure that many of us older folks remember those tiny pink pills. It wasn’t all bad, though. Dr. Smith dispensed calcidine tablets in paper packets, and there was nothing more effective for croup or chest congestion. They tasted a little like licorice mixed with charcoal, but they worked. I haven’t seen any of them for years.
When doctors were far away and transportation was poor, we had to relay on home remedies and herbal medicine for the everyday cuts and scrapes that are a part of living on the farm. Earnest prayer was the most effective medicine that could be used, and saved the lives of many children.
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