Slight Error!

imageMy nephew, Josh, came shrieking in the house looking for his mom and dad.  “Help! Help!  There’s a giant black weirdo in the front yard!”

Fearing he’d been accosted by a pervert or a child molester, they ran out ready to defend their little guy.  There was nobody there.

“Son, there’s nobody here!” his dad reassured him.  “Exactly what did you see?”

Excitedly, Josh pointed out a hole in the yard.  “A huge spider!  A black weirdo!  He ran down in here!”




The Joy of Nursing

Early in my nursing career, I cared for Betsy Mercer, a young mother of six and seven-year-old boys who had lost her baby when the placenta detached before delivery.  She was catastrophically ill, suffering every complication. I dialyzed her for weeks while she was on the ventilator in ICU as she went from bad to worse to worse.  The only thing in her favor was her previous good health and the fact that she was a mother.  As a mother, I identified with the grief she’d feel at the loss of her little girl when she finally regained consciousness, and regretful that two little boys were likely to lose their loving mother.  I sang to Betsy and talked to her as though we were friends every day.  “Betsy, Your husband brought these pictures of your boys today.  They are so cute.  He said they miss you but Grandma Sweet is getting them to and from school.  Joey made you this bracelet and Kerry drew you a picture of your family.  He drew you the biggest.  He must really love you.”

I put the bracelet in her wrist every day when I was with her and posted the kid’s art where she could see it when she was turned to the left.  Patients who can’t move are repositioned often to keep their skin healthy and to help prevent pneumonia.  Late one Thusday I finished my shift and told Betsy I’d but would see her Tuesday morning after my long weekend, though I had little hope she’d be there.

I went back to the ICU to check on Betsy before my shift Tuesday morning.  My heart fell when I saw someone else in her room.  I felt just awful till I asked her nurse when she’d died.

“Oh, Betsy rallied midday Friday. She didn’t need dialysis and got off the ventilator Saturday night.  By Monday, she was so much better, she moved out to the obstetrical floor.

I was ecstatic at her recovery, and meant to visit her in her room, but didn’t get up there.  About six weeks later, a beautiful young woman stopped off at our unit to visit.  It was Betsy, fully recovered come to pay her caregivers a visit.  I’d never have known her.  It was such a joy to see her returned to health and her family.  It’s days like these that keep nurses coming back.



Vital Info for Your Health



Children in the twenties, thirties, and forties were looking kelt to have to wear asfoetida bags around their necks to ward off illness.  The foul-smelling asfoetida was likely to placed in a discarded tobacco bag like the one pictured above.

I found near this article about asfoetida on

Monday, January 14, 2013
Maybe it’s time for asafeotida bags
By Meg Hibbert
Maybe it’s time to break out the asafeotida bags to ward off the flu.

Doctors, hospitals and medical personnel all over – especially in Virginia – are saying this week that the flu epidemic right now is huge. The word is that local hospitals are getting overloaded with flu cases. Staff on Tuesday said Richfield Retirement Center’s residents in the Recovery and Care Center are quarantined to their rooms and residential floors, instead of being allowed to go to the cafeteria.

Maybe we should all try wearing asafetida bags.

Unless you grew up in the 1940s, 1950s and were raised in the rural South, you might not ever have heard of asafetida or asafoetida, which as a kid, I thought was probably spelled assafettidy.

When I was little, I remember a few country kids in Tifton, Ga., coming to school with little cloth bags of onion-smelling gunky stuff on string around their necks. Asafetida was supposed either supposed to cure you of colds and other sickness, or to keep germs away.

It kept the rest of us away, that’s for sure.

According to my quick research yesterday, some people thought asafetida would keep away flu, or even polio. After the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed almost 100 million people, according to the book “Healing Spices,” pharmacies used to sell “asafidity” and “asafidity bags.”

Internet research says asafetida is a bitter, gummy resin made of a fennel-type of plant that is native to the Middle East and similar parts of the world. The name is derived from “asa gum” and the Latin word “foetidus” for evil-smelling.

I do remember the stuff smelled really bad.

The “” site has a posting by Bev Walker who says scientists took a new look at asafetida, and found it had antiviral properties.

In addition to the herb powder, asafetida was frequently mixed with garlic, onions and other herbs people believed had healing qualities.

I didn’t have a granny who made us wear I had an asafetida bag so I’m certainly no expert. I do remember finding a lacy metal open-work locket that still had some of the dark-brown, gummy stuff dried in it. I thought that was terrific. I wonder what ever happened to it in my childhood treasures.

Anyway, today’s medical experts are encouraging us to get a flu shot if you haven’t already had one, eat healthy, get lots of rest, wash your hands frequently and stay away from sick people.

Since I can’t take flu shots because I was allergic to eggs when I was a baby and flu vaccine is grown on eggs, I usually take my chances with flu. Knock on wood, I’ve only had it twice in the last 13 years. Maybe I’ll just start wearing a couple of cloves of garlic around my neck, instead.

Editor’s note: Since I published this in the printed edition of the Salem Times-Register on Jan. 10, reader Frank Munley sent an article from “Saudi Aramco World” about asafoetida, also known as “Devil’s Dung,” which it called the world’s smelliest spice. Supposedly asafoetida resin – which the article says comes from Ferula assafoetida, a relative of carrol and fennel plants (wonder if it’s related to Queen Anne’s Lace, too?) dropped into olive oil to sauté gives a rich, savory scent similar to sauteéd onions. It is used in pickled dishes and in the West, is an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. Who knew?

Tags: Afghanistan, asafetida, asafoetida, asafoetida bags, epidemic, fennel, flu, herb, influenza, Kashmir

This entry was posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013 at 4:03 pm and is filed under Cookin’, Critters and Chillun. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Aw, Just Take It!


Interior of vintage pharmacy, similar to Ludwig’s Drug Store

Ludwig’s Drug Store sat smack in the hub of activity of Main Street.  On a busy day, there might be ten or twelve residents going about their business downtown, a couple of them dogs.  Mr Ludwig could easily have been mistaken for Alfred Hitchcock.

The drug store was dark, mysterious, and strange-smelling.  I always imagined the back room held bodies of children who’d gotten into medicine they shouldn’t have,  courtesy of Mother’s warnings to stay out of the medicine cabinet.  Why would they make those Childrens Bayer Aspirin so tempting if they were dangerous?  Ever after my sampling, Mother just cut the big ones down.

I don’t know that I ever heard Mr. Ludwig say more than “That’ll be a dollar twelve cents,” until one of the Bumgadrner kids came in while we were waiting for our order.

“My mama wants a bottle of Asfoetida, and she said put it on the bill,” Freddie Bumgardner announced.

Mr Ludwig got his charge pad out and looked hard at Freddie for just a minute before snapping  it shut.  “Aw just take it.  I ain’t gonna try to spell Bumgardner and Asfoetida in one day!”

Asfoedita is a foul-smelling herb used to treat colic and was put in bags to be hung around the neck to ward of disease in previous generations.  Its foul smell probably kept people at sufficient distance to avoid contagion.



Sunday Meditations

imageThe Swains lined the third pew from the front on the right side of the church.  Daddy insisted on it.  I might be a better person today if I’d gotten to sit on the back pew and write notes and giggle with my friends.  I had a lot of time over the years to study those in front of me, the only thing that kept me from going bonkers during the long service.

Brother Deck, an ancient deacon sat in the middle of the front pew, wearing ancient suits, heavy black, wool in winter and gray gabardine in summer.  The gabardine had been pressed so much it was thin and shiny.  Should it be hot enough for him to remove his jacket, we were treated to a view of a gray, gabardine wedgie, which somehow, he never seemed to notice, though I was always puzzled at how he could tolerate it.  Though the poor old man was stone-deaf, he never missed a service.  He nodded off to sleep as soon as the sermon started.  His anal sphincter must have relaxed as well since he punctuated the sermon with occasional farts instead of “Amen!”  It was nice comic relief to sermons.  I was fascinated with Brother Deck, anyhow, since he left the bed in a spooky old farmhouse with his two reclusive old sisters.  The kids told tales that they were crazy, but that didn’t discourage any of us from accepting the wonderful newspaper wrapped pears they passed out every Halloween.  They couldn’t have been nicer the few times I saw them.

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Lincoln sat at the opposite end of the pew in front of us.  Mr. Bo was on the school board and Miss Mary Lincoln a retired teacher.  They appeared quite prosperous and were much admired in the community.  I had plenty of time to observe Mr. Bob, and one day noted he was wearing BVDs. I had no idea what BVDs were at the time, but could clearly see a cross-cross strap pattern through the back of his his thin dress shirt.  Not only that, he wore fancy silky black socks, with alternating sheer and slightly heavier woven stripes.  I always felt a bit like a voyeur sneaking  peeks at the sight of his nearly naked ankles through those dashing socks.



Miss Bonnie sat in the middle of the front row of the choir, next to her sister Miss  Ozell, whispering and giggling silently, her shoulders heaving with poorly concealed mirth. A mountain of a woman, that pew must have suffered under her amusement.  I always anticipated the collapse of the pew, but my evil thoughts were never rewarded.  One memorable Sunday, the minister preached with an unzipped fly, holding everyone’s attention.  It’s really hard to keep your eyes on someone’s face while they’re tromping around with an open fly.

One fine Sunday when Daddy worked, my brother Billy took convinced Mother to let him sit with his buddies.  They slipped into a back pew at the last minute.  When the sermon started, Bill pulled a super ball from his pocket to amuse himself and his friends.  Clearly, nothing good would come of that.  Predictably, it wasn’t long before It bounced to the sloping hardwood floor.  It was amazing how beautifully it entertained as bounced joyously to the front, not even waiting for the altar call.  As it neared the altar, the minister stepped from behind the pulpit and deftly scooped it up and put it in his pocket without a pause in his sermon.  Bill vainly hoped his ownership would remain secret till the minister returned it as he exited the church.

The next Sunday we all lined the pew.

Something for Nothing!!!!

Click on this image on the right for a link to get this ebook free from Kindle Saturday or Sunday only.  Please share!Book for orderI grew up in a family of competitive storytellers.  A little thing like a stubbed toe gets us started.  “Do you remember the time Grandpa cut his ingrown toenails out then fooled around and set his toe on fire?”  That is not a hypothetical example.  It’s beloved and oft-repeated tale. 

At family dinners, wild tales start as soon as we’ve said Grace and the food is being passed around.  “Remember that fifty-two pound turkey Daddy brought home to fatten for Thanksgiving on year!”

Someone else breaks in, “That old turkey was the meanest thing that ever walked!  We couldn’t even walk out in the yard without him flying over the fence and flogging us.  Mother was looking forward to him teaching those terrible Downs kids a lesson the next time they came out trying to tear the place up!”

The story is snatched away, “Yeah, and then………….”

It goes on and on.  I’ve always looked forward to getting these stories down before they were lost, and after I retired, I got serious about it, knowing there was a possibility I might not live forever.  Mother is hale and hearty far into her eighties, so with her help, I got down to business.  The icing on the cake is that Mother illustrated the stories.  Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad is the result of our collaboration.  It is available as an ebook on Kindle, in a full-color illustrated edition for family and friends and in a black and white print edition on Amazon.  For the next five days, as a special promotion, it is available free on Kindle.  Please take a look at it.