tooth jumper, tooth puller noun An untrained dentist who uses a hammer and a nail to extract or cause a tooth to jump out. Cf tooth dentist.
1961 Seeman Arms of Mt 35 Imagine going to a mountain "tooth-jumper," who armed with hammer and nail and kept a pair of home-forged pliers handy! 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 15 The tooth-puller and the tooth-jumper were known as Tooth Doctors.
Jumping the tooth involved placing a chisel or other metal object at the base of the hurting tooth, just under the gum line. While holding the chisel in place the tooth jumper took a hammer and gave it a good hard tap. If it was a successful tap, the tooth jumped out of it's hole.
The process of jumping the tooth sounds so horrible it makes you wonder why anyone would even attempt the method. Here's an excerpt on tooth jumping from John Parris in These Storied Mountains:
But them that really knowed how to tooth-jump could pop a tooth out of a feller's head before you could wink an eye. It was just that quick. It had to be. If one lick didn't jump the tooth out it was all-night-ice-'em. For if the tooth didn't come out with that first lick a feller just went plumb crazy and had to be hog tied till the job was finished.
While thinking of pulling or jumping teeth without numbing is hard to fathom-I do know if you had a severe toothache eventually you'd be willing for someone to help you know matter how bad it hurt...at least I would.
Today I'm sharing an interview with another fascinating person I met at the Wilderness Wildlife Week back in May.
Pigeon Forge has hosted Wilderness Wildlife Week for the last 25 years as a tribute to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its heritage. There are tons of presentations and workshops offered during the week-all FREE to the public.
It's a great event for people who are interested in anything related to the Smoky Mountain National Park as well as the general area of East TN and Western NC. The Deer Hunter and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to attend the event again. If you want to plan ahead-next year Wilderness Wildlife Week will be held May 9 - 13.
Crystal and Tipper May 2016
If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a while you'll remember Chatter has become very interested in herbal medicine and natural beauty products over the last year.
As I flipped through the brochure for the week and read the description for Crystal Wilson's presentation I told The Deer Hunter "We have to go to that one, Chatter would be mad if we didn't check it out for her. And the lady's a Wilson so hey I know she'll be good."
From the moment Crystal started talking I knew we'd picked the right session to attend. The Deer Hunter and I both immediately felt a connection to her. It was just like listening to someone sit on our front porch and talk to us about every day things.
I was so impressed and pleased that Crystal didn't try to hide her use of our colorful Appalachian language. If someone didn't understand what she meant, she explained it in a patient kind manner and then continued on with her teaching.
Check out the interview I did with Crystal.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Southwest Virginia. For the last 21 years, we have lived on our mountain homestead in the foothills of the Smokies.
Does your family have a long history in Appalachia?
I am a seventh generation Appalachian. Both my Mommy's people and my Daddy's came from the old country and pretty much stayed here.
How did you start using herbs to treat your family and others?
I have pretty much always used herbs. It is just what I do. Daddy taught me plants. We decided when we bought this place to grow mountain medicine and that is what we did.
I liked the explanation you gave about certain plants being white men's footprints because they were brought from over the ocean by settlers who knew about their uses and wanted to make sure they had them here. Can you explain it to my readers like you did at the event and maybe mention an example or two?
We know women brought plants with them on the ships from England and Scotland. One example of that is Plantain. That's that broad leaf "weed" in your yard. It can soothe about anything from bee stings to upset stomachs. The Cherokee called it "White Men's Foot Prints." Another plant they brought was good ole Catnip. I believe every mountain Granny has given Catnip to a colicky baby!
What other role does your farm play in your life?
I know you sell herbs do you also sell produce or is that primarily for your family’s consumption?
No we do not sell produce. We try to grow and put by as much as we can for our family.
Since you’ve been growing herbs for medicinal purposes have you noticed an increase in awareness or desire for a natural way to heal or aid in curing sickness?
When we started 20 years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of interest in going back to the old ways of using herbs. The last little bit, folks have been more interested. You know everything old is new again? LOL!
Do you teach often?
How can folks find out about your classes?
How can folks find out more about your remedies that are available?
Most our remedies are listed on our website. My favorite thing to do is to make custom things for folks to make medicine just for them.
Can you name 5 things that come to mind when you think about the word Appalachia?
I hope you enjoyed meeting Crystal, her love for Appalachia shines through her lovely voice and her smiling face as she teaches others about medicinal plants. If you live close enough to attend one of her classes I highly encourage you to do so. And if you'd like to hear her lovely voice go listen to this.
"Ringworm is caused by various species of fungi. The most frequently reported remedy for ringworm in Southern Appalachia was a topical application of juice from green walnut hulls. A magical twist to this remedy involved applying the juice and then using a thimble to press several rings , probably three or nine, around the infected area. Some ringworm suffers recited the following charm while rubbing the bottom of an iron pot in a circle with and index finger moistened with their own saliva: "Ringworm round, ringworm red, ringworm die, to make (name of sufferer) glad."
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender pg 101.
"Long, long ago in a place far away we used crushed walnut shells to clean jet engine turbine blades. It was easy. Very carefully toss handfuls of the granular shells into the air intake of the running engine. The shells were just coarse and hard enough to scour the (extremely expensive) fast spinning blades without damaging them. Of course, the shell residue went out with the exhaust."
George Pettie - November 2015
"My ancestors, the Cherokee Indians used the walnut bark to dye their basket splints, carvings and used the nut meat to cook with in some dishes. My Mom told me that when she was a young girl living on Blue Wing (Soco) section of the Reservation that the women would beat up walnut hulls to make a pulp and would dam up the creek and put this in the creek water to make the fish come to the top of the water for air, then they would pick up the fish and put them in their baskets to take home to cook and eat. The squirrels bury them in my flower beds for the winter and the ones that come up in the spring and have leaves on them I break them off. I love the smell of the walnut."
Peggy Lambert - November 2015
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2012.
Jewelweed grows in a ditch at the bottom of my driveway. Generally the plants grow in shady damp places and can reach 2-3 feet tall. The juice of the plant is said to be a natural cortisone and is an old time remedy for poison oak, poison ivy, bee stings, and bug bites.
Jewelweed is sometimes called Wild Touch Me Not-because once the plant begins to produce seed pods the slightest touch will send seeds flying in all directions.
According to my favorite old book about wildflowers, Wildflowers Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan, Jewelweed is also called Spotted Touch Me Not, Silver Cap, Wild Balsam, Lady's Eardrops, Snap Weed and Wild Lady's Slipper.
Blanchan also has this to say about the plants:
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Oregon, south to Missouri and Florida.
These exquisite, bright flowers, hanging at a horizontal, like jewels from a lady's ear, may be responsible for the plant's folk-name; but whoever is abroad early on a dewy morning, or after a shower, and finds notched edges of the drooping leaves hung with scintillating gems, dancing, sparkling in the sunshine, sees still another reason for naming this the Jewel-weed. In a brook, pond, spring, or wayside trough, which can never be far from its haunts, dip a spray of the plant to transform the leaves into glistening silver. They shed water much as the nasturtiums do.
Jewelweed is a plant I've been familiar with my whole life. When I see the striking orange blooms I'm reminded of small children placing their hands in mine to go for a walk.
I was one of those little girls who was born wishing she was a Mother. I loved my baby dolls more than some folks love their children-sad but true. I was no more than 12 when I started babysitting. I had a natural instinct when it came to entertaining kids-one of my never fail secret weapons was to take them on a walk. If Jewelweed and its rocketing seed pods were in season-it made the walk all the better.
I wish I could see far back enough in time to know who taught me about Jewelweed and its entertaining seeds pods but I can't. I'd like to think it was Pap's Mother since I stayed with her when I was small but I can't say for sure.
I can say for sure, she walked the same paths I do.
A few weeks ago Blind Pig reader Bobby Dale, sent me the following question:
Just wondering if you have heard in your mountain venue the medical treatment of blowing smoke in one's ear to cure an earache? I've practiced medicine for 40 years in MS and OH. I had an elderly patient tell me this morning that her father used to doctor her earache by blowing smoke in her ear. I've never heard that one before.
I wrote Bobby Dale back and said YES I have heard of blowing smoke in someone's ear to relieve or cure an earache.
I've only had 2 earaches in my lifetime. The first was when I was between 5 and 8 years old. Pap smoked Prince Albert cigarettes in those days, but I don't remember if he blew smoke in my ear or not. What I do remember was the pain that made me roll around on Granny's couch and bawl.
The next earache came when I was 18 years old. Pap and I had been sick on and off all winter long. I was out running around with friends one Saturday night when my ear started hurting. By morning, I was pacing the hall holding my ear. After Pap got home from church him and Granny took me to the ER where I bawled like a baby, paced some more, and waited for someone to see me. When the doc said the infection was so bad my eardrum would likely burst I started a new round of crying. He quickly explained it would heal itself and I would still be able to hear. He also said my pain would stop immediately. My eardrum burst on the way to the drug store and the doc was right I had instant relief from my pain.
Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender has an entire entry about earaches and the remedies people used to cure them.
According to Cavender, most folks thought cold air going into the ear is what caused the ache. Makes sense since cold air does make your ear hurt for a little while if you're out in it for any length of time without a toboggan or earmuffs.
Cavender said since folks believed cold, was the culprit, they tried to warm the ear up by blowing smoke in it or pouring warmed liquid in the ear. The following cures were listed in the earache entry of Cavender's book:
- pouring warm urine into the ear
- dripping sap from a warmed sapling into the ear
- dripping warm sweet oil in the ear (I've actually seen this one used and it did seem to help the pain. I believe it is still a fairly common remedy in my part of Appalachia.)
- blowing smoke into the ear
- placing a warm compress on the ear area (this one is common here and beyond I'm sure)
I shared Bobby Dale's question with Pap and asked him what remedies he remembered from childhood.
Pap said, "They told me I liked to have died from an earache when I was about 3 years old. I don't remember it. But they said they got a little bundle of sourwood limbs and set them in the fireplace. Not where they'd burn up, just where they'd get good and hot. Then they caught the sap that came out of the wood and poured it in my ear." I remember people blowing smoke in ears too and even cupping the ear with a glass to try and keep the smoke inside. Some people swore by putting warm buttermilk mixed with sodie in their ear when they had an earache. And of course I've used plain old peroxide to clean mine out good."
Home remedies seem to be making a comeback. Not the urine in the ear type of remedies-but natural herbal remedies are on the rise in my neck of the woods.
The Flu has played havoc here Cherokee County over the last 2 months. There were so many children sick with the flu that they let school out early before Christmas vacation in hopes the sickness would subside before the 2015 school year started.
One of my fellow employees had the flu over Christmas. She thought her household was done with winter sickness until her husband tested positive for the flu just last week.
Ever since I had the flu in 2009 I've been overly paranoid about getting it again. I wash my hands a gazillion times at work each day and I've been taking elderberry to beef up my immune system along with my usual vitamins for the last 2 months.
In today's world, modern medicine can at least ease the pain of having the flu by lowering your temperature and helping ease body aches. But when I think of the spread of the flu my mind always goes to the 1918 flu epidemic-a time in history when the family medicine cabinet did not hold over the counter fever reducers.
In 1918 The NC Board of Health offered the following advice about the Flu Epidemic:
How and Where Influenza is Spread
- By careless spitting, coughing, sneezing, and using the same drinking vessel or towel others have used. The disease germs are carried in the spittle and in the little drops of secretion from the nose and throat.
- In crowds and public gatherings, churches, schools, picture shows, business houses, fairs, circuses, trains, or in any other places where people congregate. Soda fountains are especially dangerous if they do not supply individual sanitary cups and sterilized spoons.
How to Keep Away From Taking Influenza
- Keep away from crowds, especially indoor gatherings.
- Avoid people who cough, sneeze and spit without holding a handkerchief over the nose and mouth.
- Do not use common drinking cups or towels, and keep away from the soda fountain that does not supply individual cups and sterilized spoons.
- Keep the bowels open. Snuff Vaseline up the nose three times a day. Gargle mouth and throat and rinse out nose with warm salt water, using a level teaspoonful of salt to a glass of warm water. Sleep and eat regularly. These are very important.
- Keep in the open air and sunshine as much as practicable and have good ventilation in the home and office. Sleep with your windows open.
- Wash your hands before eating and never put your unwashed hands in your mouth.
- Do not give the disease to others—when you sneeze or cough always bow the head and cover both the nose and mouth with handkerchief.
Symptoms of Influenza and What to Do if You Take It
In most cases a person taken with influenza feels sick rather suddenly. He feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head or back, and may be sore all over. Many patients feel dizzy, some vomit. Most of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 degrees to 104 degrees. In most cases the pulse remains relatively slow.
In appearance one is struck by the fact that the patient looks sick. His eyes and the inner side of his eyelids may be slightly bloodshot or congested. There may be running from the nose, and there may be some cough. These signs of a cold may not be marked; nevertheless the patient looks and feels very sick.
- If you have any of the above symptoms, go to bed at once and send for a doctor and follow his directions explicitly.
- If you cannot obtain a doctor at once, stay in bed with plenty of cover to keep you warm, open all the windows and keep them open, take medicine to open the bowels freely, and take nourishing food, as milk, eggs, and broth, every four hours.
- Allow no one else to sleep in the same room. Protect others by sneezing and coughing into cloths which can be boiled or burned.
- Stay in bed until a doctor tells you it is safe to get up; or, until you have been without a fever for at least four days.
What To Do After Recovering From an Attack of Influenza
- Influenza is a treacherous disease. If one is fortunate enough to escape pneumonia during or immediately following the attack, the lungs and respiratory system are frequently so inflamed that tuberculosis develops. The heart is overworked and needs rest. Therefore, do not return to work or leave home until you have regained your strength, whether it is a week or a month.
- If complete recovery does not take place within two weeks, have your family physician carefully and thoroughly examine every vital organ and function of the body. Follow instructions the doctor may give you after such an examination.
Taken from NC Digital Collection.
Much of the advice given by the NC Board of Health in 1918 would still be good advice today-I'm not so sure about the sniffing of Vaseline though. It is true sickness can hit you quickly. When the girls were little and a stomach virus infiltrated our home-it would show it's ugly head in both girls within a matter of hours.
Unless folks lived in cities or towns I doubt they would have even heard about the NC Board of Health's advice-much less read it. Families who lived in rural areas of Western NC and beyond relied on oldtimey Medicninal Remedies and a good deal of faith to get through the sicknesses that sometimes blindsided their homes.
Before the Flu Epidemic of 1918 was over-it killed millions of people across the world. If you ever find yourself in an old graveyard look around for 1918 gravestones and you'll probably find quite a few. I've noticed them throughout the old graveyards in the Smoky Mountain Park as well as the ones in my neck of the woods. The flu making itself known in the mountains of east TN and western NC was proof the outside world had reached one of the most isolated regions in the US.
Hoping the flu has by-passed your household this year and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it by-passes mine too.
When my girls were small-one of their favorite books was about a little old lady who went out into the woods to gather plants, seeds, and nuts. Oh the girls didn’t really care about the gathering part-it was the interesting characters the lady ran into along her way that they liked. The title of the book is: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything written by Linda Williams.
We always thought of the book as a Halloween book-since things kept trying to scare the lady and near the end a scary pumpkin enters the story as well. The girls discovered the book at school when they were in first grade. They enjoyed it so much I ended up buying them a copy-and we still have it.
Once I read it the first time I knew why my little musical girls were drawn to it. The book has a repetitive sing song part that occurs every time the little old lady runs into something new. By the end of the book it goes something like this:
Two shoes go clomp, clomp
One pair of pants go wiggle, wiggle
One shirt go shake, shake
Two gloves go clap, clap
One hat go nod, nod,
Over the past year I've been thinking about the little old lady and her gathering ventures. I'm guessing she used much of what she gathered in a medicinal way-at least that's the way my mind pictured her every time I read the book to the girls.
I recently met a lady, Kim Hainge, who has studied much about medicinal properties of plants that grow wild in Appalachia. It's a subject I want to know more about.
I learned about the following plants from my Foxfire books and from talking with elders in my community.
Jewelweed grows in a ditch at the bottom of my driveway. Generally the plants grow in shady damp places and can reach 2-3 feet tall. The juice of the plant is a natural cortisone and is an excellent remedy for poison oak, poison ivy, bee stings, and bug bites. Jewelweed is sometimes called Wild Touch Me Not-cause once the plant begins to produce seed pods the slightest touch will send seeds flying in all directions.
Pine Trees are common throughout Appalachia. The pine needles can be boiled to make a tea which is good for coughs and colds. Pine Resin is said to be good for cuts and abrasions. Although I’ve never used the resin for medicinal purposes-I can promise you it is hard to remove from your clothes or skin-it pretty much has to wear off.
Sassafras Trees grow in abundance around my house. They can reach 100 feet in height-which would make it impossible to gather their leaves. Pap said when he was growing up the leaves and roots were gathered from Sassafras Saplings. A tea was made from the roots and tender twigs of the tree. It was used as a blood builder or as a general tonic to get the body up and running in the spring of the year. A local lady, Sylvie Lee, shared memories of her Grandmother making a spring tonic each year from Sassafras with me. Sylvie said the children were never sick, and the Grandmother retained her smooth fair skin well into old age. Sylvie regrets never taking time to write down her Grandmother’s recipe. I have also read too much sassafras is a bad thing.
Yellow Root grows along creek banks. It is a low growing shrub like plant which is gathered for its roots. Even though the roots are very bitter tasting, they are used to brew a strong tea which is used for sore throats, stomach disorders and is said to lower high blood pressure. Yellow root is the only old time remedy I have personal experience with. Back in the day when I was a young woman preparing for my wedding I developed horrible mouth ulcers-I’m sure it was due to the related stress and worry of planning a wedding. The pain was so severe I could barley talk-and when I did talk you couldn’t understand what I was saying. As the big day drew closer I began to worry that I wouldn’t even be able to say “I do” clearly. Pap went to the creek and gathered some Yellow Root. We didn’t even brew a tea-I just chewed on those horrible bitter roots. It actually worked, my ulcers began improving quickly.
Thoughts of the little old lady from the book have grown stronger as I've wondered more about the benefits of plants that grow wild around my house. She seems to be telling me the old ways are almost gone and I better be finding an apron and bonnet for gathering before next summer.
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in September of 2009.
Ever have a toothache? In my opinion, a toothache is one of the most aggravating and painful problems to have. Lucky for folks today relief is usually just a phone call away.
Back in the day-things were a little different. Dentists weren't plentiful, it was hard to get into town to see one, and even if you could-you might not have the money needed to pay the bill (the money issue still may keep us from seeing a dentist today!). As with most ailments-there are tons of old medicinal remedies for toothaches in Appalachia-I've even tried a few myself.
A few years ago, I had a severe toothache. I kept taking over the counter pain medication and putting off going to the dentist. One night when the the pain was pretty bad, Pap told me to take peroxide and swish it around in my mouth-then take a toothbrush and dip it in the peroxide and brush the tooth as hard as I could-all around it.
Honestly-for about 15-20 minutes I thought I was going to pass out from the pain-it was almost unbearable-but after about 25 minutes it eased off and actually quit hurting.
Appalachian Toothache Remedies:
- hold liquor in the mouth for several minutes-then swallow
- chew ragweed leaves
- put cinnamon oil on the tooth
- put clove oil on the tooth (I tried this one-couldn't really tell that it helped)
- put persimmon juice on the tooth
- place a piece of cloth soaked in kerosene on the tooth (Yikes! I don't think anyone should do this!)
- hold a warm bag of ashes, salt, or water on the cheek (I've tried this with a hot water bottle-it seemed to help a little)
- if the cavity is deep in the tooth-the hole can be stuffed with soda, spider webs, aspirin, alum-that was burned, cow manure, or salt (double Yikes!)
Now for the really crazy ones:
- take a splinter/piece of a tree that has been struck by lightning and pick the cavity
- get up before sunrise each morning and say a Bible verse for 3 days
- make a hole in a tree trunk a little higher than the toothache sufferers head-cut a piece of their hair and place it in the hole and plug up the hole
- carry a hog's head bone in your pocket
- always put your left shoe on first
- wear nutmeg around your neck
- always cut your fingernails on Friday
- never cut your fingernails on Friday
Ever tried any home remedies for a toothache?
I had the best laid plans for yesterday afternoon and today-but waking up yesterday morning with a migraine put all that on the backburner. So instead of cleaning house, doing blind pig things, and working on getting the garden ready for summer I'll be doing things like:
- cutting a piece of my hair and sending the girls outside to bury it somewhere
- tying a flour sack around my head
- sending The Deer Hunter up the creek in search of ginseng so I can tie that around my head or make a tea from it or both
- convincing the girls to crush onions so I can smear those on my head
- taking a swallow or two of The Deer Hunter's cough syrup
- laying in a dark room with sunglasses on
- rolling peppermint oil all over my head-which seems to help more than anything else
I'll be doing all those crazy sounding things in an effort to make my headache go away. If you have any other headache remedies-leave me a comment please.
Be sure to drop back by tomorrow, whether my remedies work or not, there will be some train music from the Blind Pig Gang for you.
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in May of 2008.
Appalachia is a haven for superstitions, wives tales, and down right kooky advice on the subject of medicine. From putting an ax under the bed of a sick person to cut the pain, to gargling something as poison as kerosene to burn out your tonsils. The medical folklore ranges from helpful to dangerous. Especially fascinating to me-the plants used in the remedies that grow in my yard.
This is Bloodroot, one of my favorite wildflowers. The small Daisey like flowers appear first, then seemingly over night all the petals fall off. A few days later the leaves appear. The leaves are fairly large and scalloped-I think the leaves are as pretty as the white flowers.
You can see the reddish orange juice that is in the stems and roots. The juice was placed on a lump of sugar and used as a cough drop. The roots, sometimes called "she-roots", were dried and ground into a powder to be used for female ailments, burns, coughs and colds.
The first spring after The Deer Hunter and I moved into our house, Pap and I went up the creek and got several little hemlocks to plant in my yard. This is the lone survivor of that day 11 years ago. The tree is over 12 foot tall now.
Hemlock needles were brewed to make a tea for treating coughs and colds.
This is Trailing Arbutus it grows along the bank behind my house. In the spring it has tiny white pink flowers that smell amazing and literally perfume the whole yard. The leaves were used to make a tea to aide in relieving kidney stones.
Wild Violets grow everywhere around my house, in the yard, in the woods and even in the rocks. A very prolific wildflower.
The roots were used to make a tea which was used as a fever reducer.
Some of the more wacky cures I've heard of:
Spider webs could be used to stop bleeding or swallowed for asthma
For feet cramps turn shoes upside down before going to sleep
To remove a sty from your eye-rub a black cats tail over it
For a headache- tie a flour sack over your head (for some reason I have the urge to try that one), or bury your hair after your next hair cut and you'll never have a headache again
For a black widow spider bite drink liquor heavily from 3 p.m. till 7 p.m. (alright- can't you just imagine who came up with that one-The Deer Hunter said he might get bit on purpose just for the cure)
I'm sure you've used some type of home remedy for an ailment or maybe your grandparents did? Please leave a comment I'd love to hear about it.
p.s. My research came from The Foxfire series number 1 & 11.