Growing up on a farm miles from the nearest medical help had its challenges. It wasn't just that the nearest hospital was an hour away. The nearest doctors were forty-five minutes away, and their skills were so minimal they were locally known as "The Horse Doctors." And if you remember from a previous post we had no ambulance service. The local undertaker's hearse doubled as our farming community's emergency transportation when the need arose. What this meant was you had to learn to make do when it came to medical treatment.
I was reminded of this last week when a friend was telling me about a medical issue she was experiencing. I listened, then suggested a course of treatment. When I hung up the phone I was suddenly hit with the thought "you are your mother's daughter." In this context it wasn't a particularly comforting thought. Here's why...
My mom had quite a reputation in our farming neighbourhood as being the "go to" person for medical advice and/or drugs. Lest you judge my mom, or her "clients", please keep in mind two things. My opening paragraph, and the fact we are talking about the 1960s. The well of stories runs quite deep when it comes to my mom, but the following is one of my favourites.
One day a neighbour dropped by for coffee. (This was a common thing when I was growing up. People didn't schedule in visits, they simply showed up at your door.) Wilene, or "Wally" as she was referred to by her husband, was in a state of panic. My mom listened as Wilene told my mom she had been invited to play bridge with a group of women that evening, and she was worried she wasn't up to their high caliber of play. One woman in particular was known to be quite nasty if she thought you made a bad play. She just didn't know if she could go through with it.
My mom reassured Wilene, telling her that she had "just the thing" to help her get through the evening. Several years earlier the doctor had given my parents a prescription for some tranquilizers to help them quit smoking. (In case you were wondering why we referred to them as The Horse Doctors, this would be a clue.)
My parents each tried a pill, and decided not only did it made them feel weird, it hadn't made them want to quit smoking. They stopped taking them, but kept the pills because on a farm you just never know when something will come in handy. It turns out they were put to good use on our dog, who frequently had losing battles with the local porcupines. My dad would give the dog a tranquilizer, then remove the quills with a pair of pliers. (Not only were doctors in short supply, so were veterinarians.)
My mom handed a couple of the tranquilizers to Wilene and told her they were sure to help. A few hours later the phone rang. Now to appreciate this next bit you need to have a bit of background on Wilene's husband Ken. Ken was a gentle giant of a man. He was very tall, wore jumpsuits (again, this was the 1960s), and spoke in a slow, calm voice no matter what was happening around him. When my mom answered the phone Ken was on the other end of the line, his calm voice giving no indication as to the events going on in the background.
"Thelma, this is Ken. What did you give Wally? I can't get her out of the bathtub."
Of course my mom had to confess her part in Wilene's "trip" to the bathtub. There were no hard feelings over the incident, and over the years they had many a good laugh over it. Needless to say, Wilene didn't make it to her bridge game that night. And my mom didn't stop dispensing advice and drugs. The fact was, even with this small blot on her "practicing medicine without a license" career, she was still a better bet than The Horse Doctors.
And remember the beautiful handspun yarn my friend gave me for my birthday? Here it is, knit into toasty warm socks.
They are even prettier in person than in the photo, which doesn't really do the colours justice.