OLDE TYME MEDICINE

Another Back-In-The-Day…When medicines were not advertised, just prescribed by doctors…When doctors could safely spend more time on house calls than in their offices…And people were more accustomed to home remedies than using OTC and proscribed medicines.

The Old Hand

Mom’s medicines were fairly normal for the times, Vicks, aspirin, iodine, and lots of TLC. She forced us to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil as a preventive medicine. Dad, though, had two items that he believed were the most important first-aid items ever made, namely a tin of carbolic salve and a bottle of horse liniment. These products were delivered to the house by the Watkin’s Man, a contemporary of the Fuller Brush Man, and precursor of the Avon Lady. Dad made sure we always had a supply of both medicines in the house and in the barn.

The carbolic salve came in a tin that resembled an oversized hockey puck. It was hard to get the cover off the first time; but you just rubbed a little of the salve on the inside rim of the cover, and it came off like a breeze afterwards. It was a Swiss Army knife of medicines. A cut on a fetlock, a festering harness sore, just slather a glob of carbolic salve on. A skinned knee, a boil on the butt, slather a glob of carbolic salve on.

A family down the road used axle grease for the same purpose. Both products had the same origins, dinosaurs, dead for eons. But the carbolic salve had a strong medicinal odor that lent assurance that it was working.

But it’s odor didn’t compare with the pungent perfume of the horse liniment. That had the potency to mask even the everyday fragrances of the barn. Whew! If man or beast had aching muscles, just rub in the liniment. Not only did it ease the ache, it gave you plenty of elbow room at school. It also worked to cure a horse of a croupy cough, although getting it down it’s throat was a real chore.

And then there was the times that us kids had a croupy cough… Dad made a horse liniment toddy: hot water, a dose of liniment, and lots of spoonfuls of sugar. Mom always pointed out that the label said it was not for human consumption. Dad always countered with, it’ll cure what ails ’em, and put a little hair on their chests. My brothers and I always protested because it had a terrible taste. My sister always cried because she didn’t want hair on her chest. Now I don’t know if it was because of it’s medical value, or because of the threat of having to drink another toddy if the cough persisted; but it worked.

Pub 1/20/12, St.Paul Pioneer Press

ADDENDUM;

Just checked the Watkins web site. Both products are there for the buying if interested.

The old timers around the village had other favorite remedies. The women favored reciting the rosary with the sick person…’Wake up, we only got two more decades to go’… The men favored a pint of blackberry brandy from Judge Shanno’s liquor store. ‘After chores you kill the jug, climb in bed under a couple quilts, and sweat it out overnight. Might not always cure you but you’ll have good dreams.’

WARNING: These friendly tips are for use only in those olde tyme illnesses and should not replace the words to live by today, hunker down, wash your hands, and keep a Social Distance from everyone.

KEEP HEALTHY

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene tried to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about the goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, so Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack of dogs as trainers. It became actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

 

Published BB and Word Press 2/13/17

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene paid to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about his goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack as trainers. It got so was actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

Published BB 2/13/17

MY BROTHER, BOB

There was 4 children in our family, Me, my sister Pat, my brothers Bob and Ray. Now there is only 3.

Bob’s funeral was on a weekday, a workday; but the church was packed, with relatives and friends. Just before the service was to begin a school bus filled with people pulled into the lot. They were people that lived in the town where Bob had a small general store he bought a few years before. In those few years, Bob had endeared himself to those people so much, the town shut down to attend his funeral.

Bob was one of a kind. To know this gentle giant was to love him.

Nancy, Bob’s wife, asked if I would read an eulogy at the funeral Mass. It certainly wasn’t something I wanted to do, standing before a crowd and talking; but I did it anyway. I did it for Bob, for his wife and two children, for his many, many friends. I did it because Bob loved life, loved to laugh, and the last thing he would have wanted is somber funeral.

Here’s what I wrote those many years ago.

 

ROBERT LEROY OSTERTAG       2/25/44 – 11/18/2008       Robert LeRoy

 

Nancy asked me to speak about Bob’s accomplishments. Well, Bob and Nancy celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year, and that’s quite an accomplishment in today’s world. I’m sure Bob would consider Debbie and Robby as his two dearest accomplishments. It’s trite to say that someone was, not  only a good father, but also a good friend to his children. But in Bob’s case it’s not trite. It’s true.

And Bob certainly can be proud of being a father to the many special children, like Curtis and P.J., that Bob and Nancy, Debbie and Robby brought into their family.

He was barely old enough to have a chauffeur’s license when he began to drive truck for Ray Furlong. He made good money. On paper. The company was going downhill and Bob got some cash and a lot of IOU’s. He was loyal to Ray though and pretty soon he ended up owning the truck he drove. Then later, the company. He changed the name to Ostertag Transfer.

He could drive a truck with the best of them. Drive a semi better backwards than most drivers could forward. Years later when the independent truckers were being squeezed out, Bob used his skill to teach at the county vocational school. It wasn’t just his truck-driving skills that won him all his Teacher of the Years awards, it was his people-skills also. Bob cared about his students and his students knew it,

Bob liked people and people liked Bob. It didn’t matter if you were a life long friend or a total  stranger, you could talk with Bob.  Funny part was, even in a long conversation, Bob never really talked much. He smiled and he listened. When he did talk, he went straight to the point, no phoniness, no malice. And you always felt better after talking with him.

That’s really why he wanted to own a small store in a small town. Be able to talk with town folks and farmers, like the people he grew up with. He knew he’d never be rich off of Mezzeppa Mercantile, but he’d be happy.

When Bob was little we never thought he’d be such a stay- around- home kind of guy. We thought he’d be an explorer. He liked to roam. As soon as he learned to walk he would head up the path and spend time everyday with Grandma. As he grew older he tried to roam further, visit more people.

One day Uncle Charlie came busting into the house. He told Mom that her two little boys were hiking down Highway 55. He said he tried to bring them home but the dog with them wouldn’t let him near the boys. Mom didn’t think they were Bob and Ray. Her two angels were playing in the fenced-in sand pile.

But Charlie was right. Bob managed to pile up enough sand and toys to climb over the fence and then he found an empty 5 gallon bucket he put upside down up so Ray could stand on and bust loose.

About that time both of them had their tonsils taken out the same day. That night, Bob decided to explore the hospital and managed to climb out of the hospital bed. He didn’t have a bucket for Ray, so he talked Ray into trying to squeeze through the bars on the bed. When the nurse came in to see what the commotion was about, Ray had his head stuck on one side of the bars and his body on the other. And Bob was trying to pull the bars apart to Ray could get unstuck.

After Grandma died, Bob went further up the hill and adopted Mrs. Winkle as a surrogate grandmother. And vice versus. He talked to her about wanting to be a farmer and have lots of animals. One day, Mrs. Winkle bought Bob a little calf. Told him to raise, then sell it, and he’d have money to buy two calves. Keep doing that and someday he’d get his farm.

Problem was Bob like animals too much. He made a pet out of it, named the calf, ‘Herman’. Mom and Dad never said much about it, but Grandpa did. He would try to explain to Bob the animal couldn’t be a pet; and if Bob didn’t sell it pretty quick, it would eat up all profits Bob could hope to make off it.

Bob knew Grandpa was right and one day he worked up nerve enough to bring Herman to the stockyards. Got Owen or Gibby, maybe both to help him. They had the animal unloaded and in a holding pen, and the commission man was about to the write Bob a check, when Herman let out a beller. Bob ran and opened the pen, took Herman out, loaded him back in the truck and brought him back home. Grandpa just shook his head. Took Bob three times before he finally left Herman at the stockyards.

When he finally bought his farm, he knew being a small farmer was no better than being an independent trucker but the farm insured him of a life-style he wanted, and the one he wanted for his family. And he could have room for a lot of animals.

Over the years he raised cattle and horses, pigs and chickens. Bought a donkey once. Pat and Herb woke up in the middle of the night to all kinds of noise. Bob was giving his nephews and niece a ride on the donkey. In their living room!

He always like the hard work involved with raising animals but, like with Herman, he hated the thought of having to get rid of them.

He was about two and a half when he made he was responsible for his first major impact on our family. Grandma hung up the phone and told him that he had a new baby brother. Then she asked if he knew what the baby’s name was going to be. Out of the clear blue, he said “Raymond”. Now that wasn’t the name Mom and Dad had picked out, but by the time Mom and the baby came home a few days later, it was too late to change. Raymond was his name.

Bob was about fifteen, maybe sixteen. I had been out of the Army a few months and came in the house one Saturday and mentioned I had to come up with a date in a hurry. Wanted to go to a party that night and I needed a date.

Now I had noticed Bob had been kind of sheepish around me lately. I thought maybe he still was thinking about my brand new used- car that I brought home a few weeks before. He had offered to do me a favor and take it down to Huber’s and put gas in it for me, while I dressed up. An hour or so later the phone rang to tell us Bob and Owen and my brand new used- car had ended up in the river. Bob and Owen recovered none the worse for wear. That’s more than I can say about my brand new used-car.

Anyway, that’s wasn’t the reason for his sheepishness. When he heard I needed a date that night, he told me, I kind a had a date for that night, or rather he had a date, and it was really my date. About a month before a friend had given me the name of a girl, he wanted me to call up. I just threw the number on my dresser and forgot about it. But not Bob. Seems he had been calling this girl now for a couple weeks, pretending to be me. And that evening was going to be his first date with her. He was relieved when I said I would take her out that night. After all she was in college and he knew he have to tell her the truth once he met her.

Make a long story short, that gal and I have been married now for some 47 years. I probably never would have met her if it wasn’t because of Bob.

We all got stories to tell about Bob. A lot of us are here today because we’re related to Bob. All of us are here today because Bob was our friend. And there are a lot more of his friends that couldn’t  make it,  but are with us today in spirit.

I hate to end on a negative note, but, Robert LeRoy, you left us way too soon.

 

Today would be his 71st birthday.