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Interview

Mary Scarlett Jones

11/9/03

Conducted by Joe Liles

Part 9

 

People didn’t go to hospitals like they do now to have their babies.  There was a lady from Hillsborough.  She was a Burst.  She would come down and stay with some of the people of this area.  There was another old lady that came when my brother James was born.  Her name was Betty Horton.  We’d tell James, “Betty Horton was your mama!”  And then, there was Aunt Dennie Trice.  She was a midwife.  She stayed when John was born.  I think my Grandmother, Delila, stayed when Savannah was born, and maybe she stayed when I was born.  Grandmother Lila was a midwife too. 

 

Now Aunt Fannie Breeze, that was one of mama’s favorite aunts.  She was a midwife all up and down the Eno River.  She helped give birth to children of any color.  We had somebody else called Aunt Abby Brown.  She was blind, but Aunt Abby would still hold the babies and take care of the babies. 

 

When the mothers would get in labor, these midwife women would spend the night with them, or maybe two nights, because some were in labor longer than others.  They would stay and watch over the mothers and make sure everything turned out all right.  These ladies would stay with the mother a day or so after the baby came.  They stayed long enough for some other person to come.  You know they kept the baby in the bed for eight or nine days.  They would see that the baby’s naval was taken care of.  They would put turpentine around the naval.  Sometimes they would put some Vaseline in it to keep it from burning.  It would keep the baby from getting wormy.  People believed a whole lot about those worms.  Children passed worms!  The baby would wear a band.  Now, those bands would stress the baby’s back, so their backs would be strong.  That band was three or four inches wide, and they would wear it around them, around their little backs.  It would also keep the naval from protruding.

 

Now, when the babies would cry and couldn’t stop crying, you would rub their temples.  When the children would have the colic, they would give them flag root.  I heard an old lady say, “You clean your mouth out real good and spit and spit and spit.  Then you chew some that flag root and then put some of your saliva in the baby’s mouth, and he or she will be all right.” 

 

You had to do a lot of things for yourself because it would take a long time for the doctor to come to your house.  He had to come in a buggy.

 

We had a lot of home remedies that we used.  We used to drink sassafras tea, especially at breakfast.  Now, that would give you healthy teeth.  And there was something else called spicewood.  That would grow around the branches.  It would make a red tea.  It was supposed to be a blood cleanser, make you feel good.  And they said that mint tea was good for a whole lot of things.  It was good for gas.

 

I remember they would say that if you had a sprained foot, you could get some clay out of the bottom of a spring and bind your foot up with it.  They would make a poultice out of it and spread it on your ankle and then wrap it up with a cloth.

 

They would say that if you had a cut and would bleed right much, you would put soot on it, soot that come from the chimney or stove or something.

 

People would eat poke salad around here.  You would boil it and pour the water off, change the water, several times.  This would keep it from being too strong and bitter.  They say it was a blood cleanser.  It tastes more like spinach that anything else.  My husband used to like poke salad scrambled with his eggs, with onions too.  Get green onions and scramble it and the poke salad with the eggs.

 

I liked any kind of wild berries around here.  There were blackberries, huckleberries which were the same thing as blueberries, I reckon, and china berries.  You don’t get much off a china berry, but I just liked the taste of ‘em.  Some people say they are poison, but a few of them won’t hurt you.  Every year, I taste me some of them.  I like the taste of persimmons.  You have to wait until the first frost gets them.  They are puckery, something to make your mouth feel terrible.  Make you want to keep spitting all the time.  After the frost, they are sweet and doesn’t make your mouth feel bad.

 

I guess some of these things helped you not go to the doctor so much.  At least people thought they helped.

 

When I was growing up, I had a hearing problem, and I still do.  I didn’t hear some of the things the other children would say.  Sometimes they tell me I hear what I want to hear anyway.  Now, I wear a hearing aid.  If I turn it up too far, it squeals.  I used to have another one for the other ear, but it went out on me.  They are too expensive to fix.  Mrs. Link bought a hearing aid for her husband.  It cost around $1000, and he passed shortly.  She was upset by that, but hearing aids are kind of like dentures, they don’t fit nobody else.  So I think, once in a while, that I will get these hearing aids worked on or buy a brand new one, but I might kick the bucket!

 

I guess I have told you ‘bout all I can remember right now.

 

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