April 7, 1892 - Day 31


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Dear Martha,

Two good things happened today.

First of all, Travis challenged me to a slingshot contest. I said, “What are we playing for?” He said if he won, I’d have to give him some of our venison jerky. I said, “How many pieces?” and he said three. I said, “What if I win?”

He said, “There’s no way you’ll win.”

I said, “What if I do?”

He looked at Jasper Lowe with a you-and-I-both-know-I-can-beat-Teddy-Bodain look.

He said, “You won’t. But if you do, I’ll give you all your marbles back.”

I said, “And your cat’s eye shooter?”

He said, “And my cat’s eye shooter.”

I trounced him good! Jasper Lowe was our officiator. He said I won fair and square. Travis gave me back all of my marbles, including his cat’s eye shooter, in a marble sack. He said, “If I hadn’t taught you so much about shooting a slingshot, you wouldn’t have won.” But he was a good sport about it, all in all.

Jasper said, “Travis, maybe you need a spoonful of Dr. Zoren’s Elixir of Life.”

The second good thing that happened was my interview with Mrs. Carter. She is such a nice person. I asked her about her tinctures and liniments. I wanted to know how she had learned to use them to heal folks.

She said, “I’m not a doctor or anything like that. My mama just taught me which plants are good for different ailments. That’s the way we did in the old days when we couldn’t get to a doctor.

“Mama taught me to rub a rhubarb leaf or a slice of lemon on a hornet sting. That will take the pain away every time. She taught me that evening primrose is good for arthritis. Feverfew can cure a headache. Ginger aids in poor digestion.” As she talked, she showed me each plant or herb. Some were dry, some were growing in pots, and some she had crushed to a powder.

She said, “Garlic is good for fatigue. You can eat it whole, fresh, or roasted over a fire. Mama taught me how to gather golden seal, bayberry, butternut bark, chamomile, and mayapple. Things like that. They’re all found in nature. I make tonics and tinctures to take by mouth and liniments to rub on the body.”

I said, “Like Dr. Zoren’s Elixir of Life.”

She gave me a look. “You didn’t buy a bottle of that, did you?”

I shook my head. “No. Pap thinks it was hogwash.”

Mrs. Carter said, “Then your pap has got a good head on his shoulders. Maybelle Terwilleger showed me her bottle, and I gave it a taste. It wasn’t anything but cheap corn whiskey and red sugar syrup. That man isn’t a doctor, let me tell you. He just swindled folks out of their money.”

I said, “But what about the dog? Didn’t you see how thin he was? After he drank one spoonful of that elixir, he was well.”

Mrs. Carter said, “Honey, I don’t know exactly how he did it, but that hornswoggler pulled a fast one. His assistant was in on it, somehow.”

I said, “But I was standing right next to the cage, Mrs. Carter. I saw it with my own eyes.”

Mrs. Carter said, “Like Mr. P.T. Barnum says, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’”

That got me wondering. If it was true what Pap and Mrs. Carter were saying, we’d all been had.