RX For Kids

Garry’s Outdoor Kicks & Grins - April 2023

Garry Bowers | April 1, 2023

Parents today make sure their children are equipped with helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and bottled water before they are allowed on a bicycle. They have the pediatrician on speed dial. The kid’s Pre-K vaccination records are stored in their computer. Things weren’t always that way.

When I was a kid, I was a student in my spare time. Most of my life was occupied as a fisherman, hunter, camper, explorer, frontiersman and part-time Indian tracker. As such, I had more than my share of injuries, wounds, impairments and illnesses. Considering that fact, the medical practices in my home weren’t exactly appropriate, and the medicines themselves were extremely sparse, consisting of five items, three of which were not even medicines. And, my Mom and Dad had polar methods and means for cures and treatments.

Mom’s remedies consisted mostly of ice, chicken soup and Grandma’s recipe for a mysterious poultice. Strains, sprains and bruises were treated with an application of ice in a washcloth. Childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and chickenpox were treated with chicken soup. And she purposefully exposed me to those diseases. The idea was that the sooner you contracted it, the sooner it would be over.

“Mom, I’m going to the woodlot out back this morning to track some big game.”

“Not so fast, young man, Ducky’s mother tells me he has broken out in spots. We’ll be going to visit him today.”

Seriously? Seriously. Sure enough, I would contract whatever disease it was from whichever friend it was, be confined to bed for three days and fed chicken soup.

For any contusions, abrasions, or cuts short of an amputation, Mom mixed up Grandma’s recipe in the sink and applied it liberally. Out of fear and concern for my emotional health, I never asked what was in it. I was scared “eye of toad and tail of newt” would be in the description. And it smelled… well, it smelled… indescribable. Think of sitting on a cow carcass and eating a hot souse meat sandwich on a summer day at a rendering plant. On more than one occasion, when she slathered it on my wound, I would pass out. Not from the pain, but from the stench.

Dad’s cures consisted of two things—tobacco products and castor oil. The tobacco was fine and worked surprisingly well. For an earache, he would blow cigar smoke into the ear canal and then stop it up with a cotton ball. For bee stings, he would apply wet chewing tobacco to the site. The pain ceased immediately and the swelling disappeared. But his chronic use of castor oil was, and I cannot stress this enough, bordering on child abuse.

Aside from afflictions that called for the use of Red Man or Tampa Nugget, virtually every other ailment he would attempt to cure with castor oil. No matter the complaint, he would say, “Boy, what you need is a good dose of castor oil.” Please note that the words “good” and “castor oil” should never appear in the same sentence. It was the most vile, disgusting concoction man ever invented. If you’ve never had the opportunity to partake of it, the best way to describe the taste is a mixture of distilled tar, kerosene and rotted fish.

I will say this. One tablespoon would cause explosive diarrhea. But that’s OK. A second tablespoon would cause immediate projectile vomiting. Dad labored under the illusion that a clean digestive tract was the cure for all of mankind’s ailments and injuries. Of course, considering the parents of some of my friends, I was lucky.

Bobby’s Dad was a football coach, and his remedy for any impairment or malady was “Walk it off.” Polio? Walk it off. Blindness? Walk it off. Stepped in a bear trap? Walk it off. Ricky’s Mom was even worse. She was a nurse and cured everything with a shot. And not just any ordinary tetanus or antibiotic, but the new (at the time) bicillin shot. (I think it was shortly thereafter outlawed in a war crimes tribunal.) Bicillin was a thick, viscous, semi-liquid delivered from a huge vial through a needle they also use to anesthetize rhinos. The person delivering said shot was required to wear earplugs.

We kids were not subject to a parent’s protection when we went on day-long excursions or all-night camping trips. Then, we were dependent upon our own medical care, which came mostly from the first aid kits we picked up from the utility belts at the Army Surplus Store. We frequented that business with the same enthusiasm girls attended Elvis concerts. Sometimes, the kits were chock full of gauze, cotton balls and battle dressing. The latter was meant for small arms and shrapnel wounds, but we used them to cover mosquito bites and such. We had this idea that the more bandages one had on one’s body, the more manly one became.

We even had an Army instruction manual for treating tear gas attacks. We never used it but probably could have on a couple of occasions when Bubblehead had several extra helpings of burnt pork and beans before entering the tent. That same little book also illustrated how to set broken bones and treat for shock, which would have come in handy had we ever had to set broken bones.

I learned at a very young age to hide from my parents any maladies, physical or microbial. If I had fallen out of a tree and punctured a lung, I would tell Mom it was just a scratch. “Nothing some chicken soup won’t take care of.”

And I could have been dragged down the street on the undercarriage of a Buick and Dad would eye me suspiciously and ask “You feeling alright, son?”  “Yeah, Dad. Never felt better!”

I am convinced that down-playing and even ignoring medical problems is the reason I lived so long. Or at least was able to smell or taste anything.

Order Garry’s book about growin’ up, fishin’ and huntin’ in the Deep South. Go to and search for “Dixie Days” by Garry Bowers.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.