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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family uses herbal remedies instead of doctors

Ray describes the herbal home remedies that her grandparents and other Barnardsville residents used in lieu of going to a doctor. Her grandfather gathered herbs while working as a logger, and her grandmother prepared them.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Which one of those games was your favorite?
GERALDINE RAY:
I always loved to play ball. And I have a rock in my knee from jumpin rope, now.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Really? A rock in your knee? How did that happen?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, they used to put rocks; We didn't have no grass, we had cinders where you'd bring&; see we had potbellied stove in the school and the potbellied stove; well, J.T. for one, which is now my present husband, used to go down there and start them early in the morning before we got to school or Robert Cown or Nathaniel Brooks and when the cinders; they used coal; and when the cinders burn down to where they wasn't gonna burn, they'd take the cinders and spread em on the ground and every so often they would brings cinders from other places to keep the ground from being muddy. So, we was out jumpin rope to see how high we could jump and my foot caught and I went down on my knee and I still got the scar and I got a little black place on my knee where the cinder went in it.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
You weren't able to get that out at the doctor?
GERALDINE RAY:
One little spot still there.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Did you go to the doctor?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, yeah. Well, see back then they sent you to the Health Department where we had a Health Nurse. It wasn't so much a health department, it was a Health Nurse that went around and she was located up here in the town hall in Weaverville. And you would go up there and they'd dress your knee, give you your shots you had to have for school and all that. So, that's how that was done. Children at the Weaverville Colored School played ball and jumped rope during recreation time, but they sometimes hurt themselves by falling on the cinders from the school's heating source -- a potbellied stove. They visited a health nurse rather than a doctor. Children at the Weaverville Colored School visited a local health nurse when they suffered injuries during recreation time.
6. GERALDINE RAY:
Mmhhm, then most of the time if you got hurt at home you could wash it out with kerosene oil or alcohol or something and put a rag on it and you'd go on.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Kerosene oil?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah. If you stuck your foot on a nail they would. You'd go pour some kerosene oil down in your foot and that would stop the infection and you would heal.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Oh. I did that once; stepped on a rusty nail. It went all the way through my foot.
GERALDINE RAY:
I've had that done twice. (laughs) I've had that done once since I've been married, I've stepped on a nail had to go up and get a get a tetanus shot. See back then, back then they did not take you to the doctor for everything.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Why is that?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well they fed you herbs. They'd give you herbs for colds, castor oil for colds, cod liver oil to keep you from havin a cold, but mainly when you got sick they'd bet on castor oil or Boneset tea or Life Everlastin. You could smoke the Life Everlastin, which the common name was Rabbit Tobacco. And they'd make all this stuff, well they had certain things when they thought you had worms, they'd give you uhhh;what was it, scullcap; no, it wasn't scullcap. But, you had a herb that was scullcap, I've forgotten now what the used that for. You had, I can't remember now the name of the one that they used for worms.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Was it Pennyroyal? You told me that once.
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, that was what it was. And see they went [every fall?] and dug roots. You had rattlesnake root, you had Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Boneset, Rattlesnake root (again), Wintergreen, and they kept all these little herbs.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Now, when you say they, who are you referring to?
GERALDINE RAY:
My grandparents. And that's what they uh . . . Well, to make me sleep they'd give me Catnip tea. There's an herb named Catnip, they'd make catnip tea and you'd go to sleep.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Grandma Whiteside would do this?
GERALDINE RAY:
Grandma Coon also. Both grandparents would do that. See, I never really stayed with grandma Whiteside much. I was just in and out of their house.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Oh, so you were talking about your father's grandparents (parents).
GERALDINE RAY:
Right. I was raised by them.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
I was confused there. Did you grandfather ever do that or was it mostly your grandmother?
GERALDINE RAY:
Both of em. 'Cause, he was a logger and he would go in the mountains a log and if he found things like that he would bring it home.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Would he administer it to you if you were sick?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, he'd bring it to her and she'd know what to do. But, he was a spoiler. I was his pet. I could sit in his lap and do anything.