The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 8:57 am Thursday, August 9, 2018
“My Grandfather Talked to Warts”
By Beth Carter
My paternal grandfather was a simple but complicated man. He grew up in a close-knit rural community with 10 siblings. His parents were farmers who survived the Great Depression only by the Grace of God and hard, back-breaking, physical labor. He and my grandmother grew up just a few miles apart and went to the same one-room schoolhouse until they entered high school. My grandparents, unbeknown to anyone, ran off and got married just across the state line in South Carolina right after their high school graduation. They immediately returned home without a honeymoon and kept their marriage a secret. My great grandmother was ill, and my grandmother felt obligated to take care of her dad and siblings for a year until her mom recovered. Only then did she and my grandfather reveal their marriage and begin living as husband and wife.
I was fortunate growing up to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I enjoyed hours of listening to stories of their life together. My grandmother was an extremely kind and open person and took pleasure in sharing the history of her family with me, but my grandfather was a different sort. He was not overly friendly, and kind was a stretch. He spent the hours from 5 am until 5 pm working hard and did not have the patience or time to indulge me in storytelling. He was a man of few words, and he primarily spoke to me with grunts or comments to pipe down as he watched tv from his reclined position on the couch. When he was home, kids were to be seen and not heard.
My grandfather was a tiny man in stature, no taller than 5 foot 5, but his presence demanded respect. He possessed a booming voice which was known to frighten young and old alike. When he turned 40, all the hard work paid off, and he was able to purchase an old dairy farm out in the country. During our visits, we often went with him to the farm and helped him out with the animals, the garden, and other chores. He drove an old and rickety, green, Dodge pick-up truck with very poor suspension. The 12 miles to the farm felt more like a roller coaster ride than a Sunday drive. On one occasion, my sister and I were helping him move some cows, and one got stuck in the gate. Our grandfather picked up a discarded chain laying in the dirt and wrapped it around the cow’s neck. He then directed us to push the cow’s rump as he pulled. I always believed he loved his cows more than people, and this confirmed my thoughts. My sister and I were just 2 elementary aged city girls, but out of respect and a little fear, we followed his instructions. After several pushes and pulls, the cow’s body popped from its trap in the gate leaving the old cow happy and free. As we excitedly turned to our grandfather for his expected praise, we saw instead pain and surprise on his face. Our grandfather first quickly removed his left leather glove. He then slowly and carefully removed the right. To our horror, his hand was covered in blood, and his index finger was severed above the knuckle. I realized as he held the chain, he must have unconsciously looped his finger through one of the links. When the cow lunged forward, his finger was pinched off. He grabbed a dirty cloth from the bed of the truck and wrapped up his injured finger. The 3 of us flew that old Dodge back home where our grandmother doctored him up. I often wondered what happened to the discarded glove with the severed finger still inside.
One Sunday afternoon when I was about 10 years old, he not only scared but surprised me when he called me by name to follow him outside into the yard. My mind raced to recall what horrible thing I must have done to have him single me out from my other cousins. Up to this time, I don’t think I ever heard him refer to any of us by our given name. If one of us did something that required his attention, it was usually bad, and we all were dealt with as one. Upon hearing my name, I turned to the others with an expression of confusion and concern on my face. They all shook their heads “no” in response indicating their confusion as well. When we reached the coolness of the afternoon air, he directed me to sit under the vine-covered arbor. He pointed his nub at me. “Take off your shoes,” he instructed. He inspected my feet and then “show me your hands,” he growled. “I want to take a look at your warts. I heard you’ve had em a while, must be pretty bothersome.” All I could do was nod my head in silence. My grandfather then reached beside me on the ground and picked up a broken stick fallen from a nearby tree. He began waving the stick over my hands and bare feet mumbling some gibberish I could not understand. He kept his eyes closed, and this process continued for 15 or so minutes before he abruptly stopped. “Put them shoes back on, and let me know when them warts fall off,” he said as he walked back into the house. Before I could get my shoes on, my cousins flew out the other door and ran to my side. “Are you ok,” they all questioned. “We saw Moody pick up that stick, and we all about fainted,” said my little sister. “What did that crazy man do to you?” I explained in as much detail as I could remember the sequence of events. They all stared in awe and wonder and looked at my hands. “Are they gonna fall off right now?” asked my cousin Sidney. “I don’t know,” I replied. “He said for me to let him know when they were gone. “Were you scared?” came next. I thought about it for a minute and replied, “Once I realized I wasn’t gonna get a whippin, I was fine.” When he mumbled the weird words quietly, I felt a little freaked out, but I wasn’t scared.”
We all re-entered the house together in shock. Our grandmother smiled sweetly to each of us, and we wandered down the hall to the den. We sat there for hours discussing if he had lost his mind or become some kind of voodoo priest. Our imaginations went wild with the possibilities.
I made my sister promise not to tell our parents what happened that evening. I was kind of worried they would think Moody had gone off the deep end. In my heart, I really believed he could make warts disappear.
I had suffered from seed warts for a long time. They were located on each side of my 20 digits and caused me much physical and emotional pain. During that time, my mom had tried every remedy available to remove them. The doctor explained to her it was just a virus that had to run its course, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I was so embarrassed that I often wore gloves and never went barefoot. Kids at school were relentless with their laughs and comments about my supposed lack of personal hygiene.
Exactly 2 weeks from the day my grandfather spoke to my warts, I woke up wart free. Elated, I ran all through the house waving my hands and kicking up my feet for all to see. I then explained to my parents what had happened during our visit. “Well, I’ll be,” responded my dad. “I always heard folks say daddy could talk off warts but I never believed em.” “I don’t care how he did it, but it worked, and I have gotta call him and thank him for healing me!” Daddy dialed the number for me, and I waited in excitement for him to answer. As soon as I heard his voice, I shouted, “Thanks, thanks, thanks, Moody, the warts are gone!” All I heard in reply was “good,” and then a dial tone. I shook my head in amazement and placed the phone on the receiver. The topic was never discussed again, and until several weeks ago, I had forgotten all about it.
I was sitting at my computer attempting to summon up some idea for a story, and the memory of my grandfather curing me of wants simply popped into my head. I immediately called my dad who reported he had no recollection of my childhood wart healing episode, but he did remember old family members discussing the strange ability.
This sparked my interest in researching folklore related to wart cures. In years past, no one had the knowledge of the viruses that caused warts. Folk beliefs sprung up to explain the sudden appearance of them on seemingly healthy people. Warts would suddenly appear out of nowhere and then disappear, which lead to the mystery surrounding them. It was believed by many that warts resulted from the handling of toads, which passed its bumps on to the person. Another belief was a person had washed his or her hands in water that had been used to boil eggs. Hundreds of superstitions came about because warts often disappeared as mysteriously as they arrived, and their departure often coincided with “cures” that had been attempted.
My online inquiry resulted in many stories describing individuals possessing the ability to talk off warts. One reference reported that the ability had Native American roots, others reported its origination coming to American from European immigrants. Most reported the ability to be passed down from generation to generation with only one family member possessing the ability at a time. As I scrolled through page after page of eyewitness reports, I was amazed at how many experiences were similar to mine. I wondered who had passed down the “cure” to my grandfather and if he had passed it on to someone in my family.
My favorite post was from a gentleman from England in 2010 who identified himself by the name Ealdwita. He stated, “My wife can’t talk away warts, but she can nag the hind leg off a donkey!” That said, I decided to end my scientific research and simply believe my grandfather could and did have the gift of speaking to warts.
By Gaye Hoots
Growing up as a farmer’s daughter, I had many opportunities to practice my trade. When I was three or four, Grandpa gave me a runt pig to feed from a bottle. I was hooked. The extra food, love, and attention were enough to make the runts thrive. The fact that I was the oldest girl in the family probably played a part too. My nursing class consisted of around fifty percent of females who were oldest daughters. I also loved literature and considered teaching, but when I started school as a single mother, a two- year degree earned me the title RN, whereas a teaching degree would have taken four years. Ultimately, I received an MSN in nursing education, but the two- year degree enabled me to work full time while attending school also.
One of the things I remember from my first psychology class was my instructor telling us that if we were expecting to receive appreciation as a nurse, we would be disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was wrong. Most of the patients were openly appreciative. The working conditions could be overwhelming because of the staffing ratio, but I responded well to the challenge.
Most of my career I worked in psychiatric nursing. I worked inpatient units, community nursing, did counseling, taught psychiatric nursing, taught substance abuse classes, and was charge nurse on a sexual offender’s unit. One of my first nursing experiences was a combination floor with an open psychiatric unit on one end of the hall and acute respiratory care on the other end. Some of the patients on one hall appeared physically healthy but did not want to live, whereas some of the respiratory care patients were praying for a few more breaths.
I had my first experience with a patient’s death while working here. I was listening to the report before starting rounds when a nursing assistant told me the patient in one of the rooms had died. My assumption was that the nurse who worked the shift with this nursing assistant had handled the death. I walked into the room to find an elderly female in bed with her husband and daughters sitting in her room, unaware of her death. This patient was a “do not resuscitate” patient. I checked her vital signs and informed her family that she was not responding, and I would report this to her doctor. I asked them to wait while I pulled the curtains around her and cleaned her up. Then I told them I would give them time alone with her to say goodbye while I reported her death.
I called the nursing supervisor to report the death and ask for help. The supervisor was a Davie County nurse that I had grown up with. The Director of Nursing was also a Davie County nurse. The supervisor walked me through the rest of the procedure including taking the body to the morgue.
Many patients had no family or friends to visit or contact them and did not make eye contact or speak to the patient sitting beside them. Others knew all the other patients and staff but needed direction with hygiene, meals, and other daily activities.
Once a patient who was manic and out of control charged a much smaller patient in front of me. I made the mistake of stepping between them, thinking I could push the smaller patient clear. This enraged the patient who was manic, and he placed me in a chokehold with his arm around my throat. I immediately became light-headed from lack of oxygen, but I pulled on his arm while dragging my feet off the floor. This caused him to trip and fall with me, loosening his grip. A male nursing assistant pinned him down, and we walked him back for medication. I was not injured, but he kept his distance after that, telling others I knew judo and had used a secret throw on him. It was never dull, but any progress was slow and took consistent reinforcement.
If I had it to do over, nursing is a profession I would choose again. It is the profession one of my two daughters choose while the other is a physician’s assistant. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and is not for the faint of heart.
“Left to Face the Aftermath”
By Kevin F. Wishon
Rising before dawn, a middle-aged woman carefully crosses the floorboards avoiding the ones most likely to creak. An oil lamp guides her through the darkness as she leaves the bedroom and sets about the daily routine she has maintained for more than twenty years. As usual, the cooking stove has lost its intensity, so she opens the cast iron door and stirs the coals inside with a metal rod. Once the smoke and ash disperse, bright orange embers begin to glow. Satisfied with the results, she tosses in several sticks of kindling and secures the stove door.
Donning her apron, she notices the reflection of a canning jar sitting near the edge of the dining room table. Remembering she had cleared the table entirely before retiring the previous day, she wonders who had placed the jar there. Grasping it by its neck, she picks up the jar, and a piece of paper floats up and off the table’s surface. Her slender fingers quickly catch the paper before it floats to the floor, and she turns it over to discover a handwritten message. Fear squeezes her lungs, and she is unable to exhale as her eyes dart across the message reading every third word.
Mama and Papa:
By the time you read this, I will be far from home. Please do not try to find me. I’m in trouble with the law. They will come to the house looking for me in the morning. To spare you heartbreak, I have left the State, so you won’t have to suffer the shame of my trial and sentence. And because of this, I can never return home. I’m terribly sorry for all of this. Please spare little Sis the reason for my leaving until she is old enough to understand. I’ll miss you all. Your Son – Philip
The canning jar slips from her fingertips and shatters upon the floor. Particles of glass disperse in all directions across the course, wooden boards. The sudden noise sucks the air out of her lungs leaving her light-headed. Hearing others stirring within the house, she wrenches herself back from the edge of despair. Stuffing the message in her apron pocket, she reaches for a broom to sweep up the glass and carries on as though nothing is amiss. Even so, she never stops thinking about all of the lies, secrets, and pain this mess will render from this day onward.
I could begin by telling you that fireflies are actually beetles and that they belong to the Lampyridae family. They produce magic light in their bodies by combining luciferin with oxygen, calcium, and adenosine triphosphate. Scientists say that this is the most efficient light ever made. The reason for this light show is to attract mates. Both males and females have the ability to create this flashing light. Predators don’t like the taste of lightning bugs, so they can travel safely. The Southern states are more apt to have the species that has bioluminescence.
But I would rather tell you about my two teenage grandsons visiting me a month ago. We were in a grassy field at dusk, and the boys were totally captivated by the lightning bugs. I had seen them respond in this manner when they were much younger, but it was fun to see them mingle with the bugs and try to gently catch them. I thought they had outgrown this, but perhaps we never age out of the wonder of watching the light show. The boys’ mother told me that their big city has sprayed for insects until there are no lightning bugs remaining. How sad, I thought. I like to avoid mosquito bites and their possible diseases but not at the cost of eradicating lightning bugs.
Watching my grandsons play in this manner brought back memories of their father doing likewise. I remember being amazed, also, as a child. This is a link between generations that goes ‘way back. Hopefully, it will continue. It’s a fleeting, timed event that can’t be repeated at will. While the calendar permits, you should go out in the evening and watch the lightning bugs.