Grandma's Remedies, Vicks, and a fly swatter.

I was reminded of my Grandma's ancient remedies, when I was a child in the sandy, dusty farmlands of west Texas.  

Now over 70 years later, I have survived, droughts, sandstorms, floods, viral epidemics, pandemics, various flues, even have memories of being in an oxygen tent and overhearing the doctors talk about "saving his life from pneumonia"  in those dust storms of West Texas.   Yet so many of my friends in their 70's have passed on, and somehow by the grace of God, the ancient cures of my Grandma, and healthy living, I still keep going.   I have to share some of those remedies.    


Yes, first, there was Blackstrap and Grandma's Molasses.  Blackstrap was hard to swallow, strong and not sweet.  But Grandma's Molasses became a favorite, and I remember my Grandma's voice, instructing my mom: "Molasses, every morning, is rich in iron.  Every day and evening when the child is sick, and once a day during breakfast just to keep his energy up."

To this day I still like molasses on my toast and sometimes, just a dollop on my plate of pancakes.     I have always been energetic, so give Grandma's Molasses the credit.  Although it is getting harder to find.  At Albertsons, today I looked down 6 aisles for over a half hour,  to find one little bottle of Grandma's Molasses, hidden in an obscure place.  I thought: "Gee no wonder people are dying these days."   I noticed the image of Grandma on the bottle has also changed, not an elderly concerned grandmother, but a younger smiling modern grandma image wearing lipstick.  Gee.  That wasn't west Texas during the dust bowl days of my youth. We took comfort in a serious, wise grandmother image. 

Then when I had congestion in my chest, or a "croup" (we might now call it the congestive flu, there was the cotton wash cloth, heated on a wood burning stove until the edges were singed and smoking, with Vicks Salve smeared all over it. } A horrid smelling concoction, that my Grandma would explain "the heat will create fumes, to help break lose the congestion, and help Ben to breathe".  It seemed like torture to me, but Grandma kept the kids and grandkids alive during croup, flue, dust storms, viral epidemics, and sickness of almost every kind on those West Texas farm lands, and New Mexico mountains.  As a child I hated those hot smoking "Vicks rags" on my chest.  But I survived.  Often, when we lived on the Ranch, way out in the mountains near Cloud Croft, New Mexico.  It was  many long hours drive to doctor from the "Ranch".  Because it was a several hour drive to a doctor,  grandma, mom or my dad had to give me the shots I needed to survive.  We kept vials of penicillin in the "Ice Box". The ranch house had no running water.  Water was from rainfall on the roof and a cistern water storage tank,  where we bailed water up with a rope with a bucket on the end.  (That was my job).  We bathed in a small round metal wash tub while grandma or my mom boiled water on a wood fired stove, to provide a warm bath.   A hot bath took time of two people to draw the water, light the stove, heat the water, and then pour it over the shoulder of the "victim" in the small round makeshift bathtub. Out of the bath, the floors were old linoleum, cold and brittle, so when we were "scurbbed" in the bath, got out, hit that cold floor with our feet, we got dried and dressed in a hurry!

Of course there was the "fly swatter".  My grandmom, and mother hated flies, believed they spread disease. That old wire frame and wire mesh fly-swatter had become a little frayed from high use.  "Kill a fly, stop a germ".  But when I overheard Grandma and Mom discussing the next treatment, which included stuffing the Vicks salve up my nose, I sometimes hid. Anywhere, under the bed, in a closet anywhere to avoid the "nose stuffing".   I distinctly recall seeing my mom's face as she looked under the bed, found me and waived the old frayed wire fly swatter at me.  Sometimes she would get tickled, (I didn't see much humor in it) at me was either the fly swatter, (with loose tangled wires) or the Vicks up my nose.  She always won the battle.   But I survived.

Then there were the fever treatments.  If a hot rag with ill smelling stuff on my chest wasn't effective, sometimes she would get the old glass hypodermic needle out of its' worn torn box just waiting to torture another victim.   It had been at the ranch for decades, I can imagine it stuck in that box, just eager to get out and impale someone.  (Old ancient hypodermic needles love to impale.)   The medicine in those days was thick, and the needles much larger to get the medicine through them.  When she and grandma poked that needle in my "rear end", it was horrifying, and hurt.  The doctor normally prescribed penicillin. Not the fancy antibiotics that come in tiny hypodermics these days, that hardly "prick" the skin.  Those old hypodermic needles put the fear of God in me as a child.  

Then just to make it more confusing, if the hot rags and shots didn't stop the fever, there was the cold water baths.  We didn't have electricity or gas hot water heaters there at the ranch house.   Just imagine having a fever, and hanging on for the next needle or torture, and they say: "Doctor says cool him off.  Put him in a tub of cold water, see if that will bring the fever down."   As a child I often wondered if the flu didn't kill me the "ranch treatment" for it would.

After Grandma's Molasses there was the whiskey cure.  Grandma had a theory, that if hot rags and  Vicks "VapoRub" on the chest ....and up the nose, penicillin shots in the rump,  and pouring freezing water over my  fevered body, she would prescribe whiskey, to sedate the coughing.  So, two or three large tablespoons of whiskey was the next treatment.  I hated it, and even to this day as a grey haired grandfather, I have never enjoyed whiskey.  Whiskey and oversized hypodermic needles still haunt my memories.  if there is a hell after death, my hell would be "Grandma's flu treatments".

But what vivid and striking memories.  Cold baths,  fly swatters, or ill smelling things on my chest and up my nose....those I have avoided for 70+ years.  But who knows.  Many of my friends, who didn't have the pleasure of living part of childhood on a cattle ranch in the New Mexico mountains, or the farms in West Texas,  with all of those "home proven" treatments, have passed on.  Perhaps if one could live through "Grandma's treatments" a person could survive longer.  So I say:  "Thank you mom and grandma!   

(Just between us, when my own kids got sick, I occasionally brought out the Vicks, and just for fun, a old frayed wire fly swatter. They seemed to get well faster!)