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Wyoming, along with other states is in the midst of as flu epidemic, or at least a spreading disease. The problem is that the flu shot did not prevent the disease, though it may make it less deadly.

That shocked some people, but not me. If you look at all the modern medical concoctions, you understand why a flu shot is still more desirable than all those pills and shots that have a multitude of side effects. Flu shots may not prevent the flu, but they do not cause rash, hives, itching, swollen lips, wheezing, dizziness, chest pain, sleepiness, weakness or painful erections. That’s a short list of the warnings on most prescriptions.

So I was reminded that the home remedies that Gramma and Mother prescribed either did what they were supposed to do or nothing at all. I don’t know whether heated olive oil doused with table pepper and stuffed on a cotton ball in your ear actually cured an earache, but it certainly didn’t cause dizziness, nausea, wheezing or any of those other awful things. Sometimes, I do wonder if it caused some deafness later in life, but that’s far-fetched.

I know that mustard or vapor rub plasters on your chest certainly cleared up your sinuses, and Mother thought it cured our colds. It probably did, because it kept us indoors for a day or two, and we were glad to go back to school rather than have that stiff chest plaster weighing us down. In my 20s, I did wonder whether I’d look more like Jane Russell if Mother hadn’t salved my cold by holding down my growth hormones.

My friends were given honey and whiskey for colds and broken bones, but my Mother prepared bourbon and lemon, then heated it up and drank it herself because I couldn’t get the awful smell past my nose.

We all had iodine poured on our cuts, and that cured any whining we may have contemplated since we didn’t want the remedy repeated. We preferred to risk gangrene than have what felt like acid poured on our open veins.

When I cut my hand between the thumb and index finger helping my dad peel pulp, he simply spit tobacco juice on it and covered it with a cigarette paper until we got home several hours later. There’s proof it worked since I don’t have a scar, and I have used my index finger to make a lot of points. Come to think of it, thumbs have to be carefully used, too. Once, I gave a thumbs down to a driver on Sherman Hill for pulling out in front of me at 40 miles per hour when I was going 70, and his daughter thought I had used another finger and pulled me over and was going to fight me. She was wearing army boots, and I ran since she couldn’t catch me with a Jeep going 40 and weighed down with those boots.

But I digress. Some of my friends were the recipients of cigar smoke in their ear to cure an earache; I’d heard a lot about smoke in your eyes during WWII, but that was meant to be romantic, a nostrum for love, not an earache. Come to think of it, neither one worked.

But I’ll say it again: home remedies didn’t cause all those other things they warn you about nowadays. In rare instances, they may have resulted in alcoholism, blood poisoning, deafness and caved chests, but the connection was long-term, not immediate. Ignorant of any possible side effects, and fully informed and resistant to the treatments, we never admitted we were sick. In today’s elixir-prone world, that’s one home remedy that might work better than all those meds that either cure or kill you.

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