Reminiscing … Long before Linch* was born

Now, anyone who wasn’t around during the Great Depression, has to sidle up to some old codger like me and ask, “What was it like during those dark years?” – if, of course, that is what he wants to know.

Back before Hoover’s blunder, a good breakfast may have consisted of fried potatoes, two eggs over easy and a rasher laying along side. However, during the throes of those years, wealthy houseflies were starving and we humans were just glad to eat whatever was set before us. We lived off the land, the rivers and the forests (plus a few measly government handouts). As I recall, greens played a major roll in our quest for food. Greens like poke, dandelions, lamb’s quarters and several other eatable plants. These fixings were good and likely stuffed with vitamins from A to Zinc, but our problem was having to eat them for days on end.

During the spring and summer we picked various wild berries: blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, etc. Most berries were processed into jellies, jams and pies, or just eaten fresh from a bowl. We worked for what we ate, or we went hungry.

Along about July we all went into the boondocks and country sides to look for scuppernongs which we ate our fill of before taking the rest home.

Most all of our medicines were herbs grown at home or found in the woods where eatable May apples grew. Puffballs were often used to stop bleeding. Some medicines tasted so awful they gave the patient a powerful motive to get better to avoid taking any more. No one called a doctor or went to a hospital until they saw vultures circling their house.

For colds mothers would slather our chests with Vicks VapoRub, then she would lay out a folded cotton cloth on top of the ointment. All this, before our PJ tops were closed. Before the Vicks container was discarded, every smidgen was gotten out of it by putting the jar in hot water to liquefy the precious remains. This unguent was a mere thirty five cents then, but a good bit more now. During that depression things had almost gotten to the point where God would soon have stepped in.

Those who were overweight and on a diet, didn’t feel the pinch so bad. During the summers they could still have their three regular meals of “broiled Hummingbird and grits.”

Rich Littlefield wasn’t much for helping his family in their crusade for food and herbs. He had one or two part-time jobs mowing lawns, plus jerking sodas on weekends down at the drugstore soda fountain.

He did go with us occasionally, but he usually created a problem. He was always leery that he’d get an earwig in his ear. One day he was sure one had crawled inside his head and was searching for a nesting site.

From folklore he had been told this particular insect seeks out the human ear as a place to reproduce. Not only that, but only the female ever burrows into the ear.

The legend goes on that once eggs are laid, the victim usually goes berserk by the time the young appear and the unbearable pain sets in. Rich commenced rambling and was getting very nervous at a rapid pace.

I ran to him panting and said, “Rich, this is only folklore and there is no truth to it. You probably inherited your fears and foolish notions from your father’s genes.” He mulled it over a minute then replied, “that can’t be, he never wears jeans, he always wears those same ole blue work pants. Anyway, ‘sheddup’ and mind your own ‘bidness.’”

I guess the ant or whatever was in or on his ear crawled away, because he soon stopped whining and bellyaching.

Those field are all quiet now – ‘cept for the call of the crickets. Many of the boys never made it through WWII and most of the girls now live elsewhere.

*One of my youngsters’ invisible horse.

Harrison Absher



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