Some things seem to have disappeared while my attention was elsewhere.

A lunch guest last week mentioned that in deep south Georgia folks treated stomach ache with a tea of blackberry leaves.

I don’t remember having a stomach ache but apparently some did.

Cases of gastrointestinal distress seemed to coincide with testing days at school.

We are generations away from dosing kids with castor oil but it was a wonder drug for simple illnesses and attitude adjustments.

Even the threat of castor oil brought a miraculous recovery.

It was a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Proponents made claims of medicinal benefits. Its reputation as an effective and fast-acting laxative will not pass.

Folks don’t often reuse old lumber which might explain why people don’t step on nails so much.

Old nails are the bane of treasures hunters. Hunters with more experience than I mentally filter out the nail alarm on a metal detector.

Kids and adults spent summers barefoot and it was common to see someone limping along with a bandaged foot.

Since tender-footed Americans pan-seasonally wear shoes, and most have current tetanus vaccinations, lockjaw is rare.

Rust doesn’t cause tetanus but bacteria does. Stepping on a nail can cause a deep wound, the kind in which bacteria thrive.

In 2017 the CDC reported 33 cases of tetanus with two deaths.

Kids were forbidden to play in rain puddles because our mothers feared we’d get “ground itch.”

I never knew of anyone with ground itch, but kids were always scratching something so it was possible that in a class of children someone had it.

We of a certain age can lift the short-sleeve of a shirt to show a small round scar.

The smallpox vaccination program was so effective that the last person with naturally acquired smallpox was a girl in Bangladesh in 1975.

Dr. Sims administered mine by scratching the skin of my upper left arm with a two-pronged needle.

Many mothers had their daughters inoculated in a place they assumed, or hoped, would not show.

Later I had a clear plastic shield taped over the site to keep it clean.

Sassafras is supposed to be a versatile herbal remedy for some things, I don’t remember what. A glass of iced sassafras tea goes well with spring fever.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at

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