Old-time cures | TheFencePost.com

Old-time cures

Marilyn Kratz
Yankton, S.D.

When Mom was already in her nineties, I asked her to tell me stories of her younger days. I wanted to record them for future generations. My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time interviewing her. I treasure the stories I do have.

Some of those remembrances refer to cures they used in the early 1900s. They seem rather strange in the light of modern medicine. A lot of them involved prayer.

One of the strangest cures Mom told me about was for horses. Sometime they’d get a sore on their neck where their collar rubbed. Grandpa would call on an elderly neighbor who knew how to do the cure. The man would take a cloth, rub it on the sore, and then fold it up. He’d take it home, put it under his pillow, and sleep on it. He also had to read specific scriptures during the “healing.”

When one of her children came down with a sore throat, my grandma would cut the rind off a slab of home-cured bacon and wrap it around the child’s neck. At least it probably smelled better than the mustard plasters Mom used on us.

Hot tea with lemon was used for a cold. Perhaps it didn’t actually cure the cold, but now days we hear that Vitamin C, as in lemons, can help one get over it faster. And hot tea makes a person feel pampered; maybe that helped, too.

Mom remembers one of her sisters had frequent nose bleeds. Grandma gathered a plant she found in the pasture, dried it, and used it to pack her daughter’s nose. It stopped the bleeding. From the way Mom described it, I suspect it may have been some form of mushroom, but I’m not sure about that.

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Mom told me of the year she and several neighborhood children came down with a mysterious ailment. It produced severe pain in their joints and left many of them crippled. I suspect it may have been polio, but the doctors back then called it “inflammatory rheumatism.”

Mom’s bout began the day after she fell and hit her knee on a stone. When she woke up the next morning, she couldn’t walk. At first, they thought it was due to the knee injury, but soon they realized it was much more serious. Both her legs were racked with pain.

The doctor advised them to wrap her legs in unwashed wool and keep them warm. Several neighbor women came over to help Grandma massage Mom’s legs. Mom says, “They said they’d have to rub out the lumps in my legs or I’d never walk again.”

One of the ladies helped by going into her attic and praying for Mom. She also read specific Bible passages.

Some of the children who suffered the disease were advised to use cold packs on their legs. All of those children, according to Mom, ended up crippled. But Mom recovered without any crippling.

While most of those cures wouldn’t stand up to modern day medicine, the people back then believed in them and always added a good dose of prayer. Maybe we’d have better luck recovering from illnesses these days if we had such strong faith.