Commonwealth Journal


January 12, 2012

We’re all pill-poppers & junk food junkies

Somerset — Anyone who grew up in the Eubank area in the 50’s and 60’s probably remembers our local general practice physician Dr. Williams; a wonderful man. I only remember one occasion when my parents took me to see him. I was delirious with a temperature of 103 and Dr. Williams gave me a shot of penicillin. I may have been delirious but I remember that needle; it must have been three inches long and the size of a pencil lead.

For anything less than life threatening my mother took care of it at home. Like a drop of camphor on a teaspoon of sugar for chest congestion, followed by a rub-down with Vicks salve, topped with a warm towel heated by the wood stove, then the towel pushed up under my long-johns and its off to bed.

If I had trouble sleeping there was the hot-toddy; a glass of hot water with lemon juice, honey and a shot of local (white) “bourbon.” (I never knew about the “bourbon” until years later).

"Sweat it out boy; you got cows to milk tomorrow."

For head congestion; a table-spoon of Vicks in a bowl of hot water, cover your head and the bowl with a towel and breathe the vapors. For sunburn from working on the farm; rub vinegar on it. Cuts? Pour coal oil on it then rub it with coal dust to stop the bleeding.

For the older folks, Watkins Horse Liniment was great for arthritic joints. Rub it on and get back to hoeing corn, it’ll feel better when it quits hurting.    

I won’t go into detail about the home remedy for constipation, although it involved a water bottle containing warm soapy water with a hose on one end. Even that was better than a glass of hot water with a liberal addition of Epsom salt. One of mom’s favorite sayings: “If it don’t taste bad, it ain’t doing you any good.”

If I showed signs of bipolar dysfunction, my dad would apply his belt to my southern polar region and the symptoms would magically disappear.

My Dad died at 76 (black lung from the coal mines) and my mom at 92 and they never heard the word cholesterol. Dad smoked all his life but mom out-lived him; so much for second hand smoke. I once asked a 106 year old lady in a nursing home what she contributed her longevity to; “Eat lotsa onions and stay away from the mens.” Well, it worked for her...maybe the onions did it.

Not so now! There’s a pill for everything. We even have pills to help you get over the side effects of the pills you took previously. Ever listen to some of the disclaimers on TV pill commercials? They have to make the public aware of them to avoid lawsuits. If their pills don’t take care of your symptoms they’re guaranteed to kill you, but check with your doctor first.

Pseudoephedrine pills for allergies have unleashed one of the worst social disasters we’ve ever known: Methamphetamine, also known as crank, crystal, or simply Meth.

In man’s never-ending quest to create another pill for what ails us, imaginary or not, and better ways to preserve our foods, we’re killing ourselves. Have you ever read the ingredients added to a package of frozen vegetables? Lactic acid, Dextrose, Sodium Caseinate, Sodium Phosphate, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, and that’s not all-inclusive. Don’t forget, color is added.

If eating all these preservatives doesn’t kill you, reading the label will scare you to death. Maybe they can create a pill to off-set the effects of all those ingredients.

I think I’ll go look for a jar of Vicks and increase the size of my garden this spring.


You can contact Cline Calhoun at

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