Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Little Croton Oil Goes a Long Way

by The Windjammer

I don’t know how many of you youngsters below the age of 70 know about castor oil and croton oil, but there are still a few people around of my generation who had first hand knowledge of at least one of them.

Castor oil is a viscid oil extracted from the beans of the castor plant, used as a cathartic and lubricant. I can tell you from personal experience that it is sometimes both in the same dose.

Croton oil is a viscid oil extracted from the seeds of a small East Indian tree (Croton tiglium) used as a cathartic or purgative. The difference between castor and croton is a whole lot more than just the spelling and the defining.

Castor oil used to come in pint bottles. Croton oil used to come in bottles so small that you could lose one in your knickers pocket and not be able find it when you really needed it. The reason, as an explanation for the benefit of the uninitiated, was obvious to anyone who accidentally mistook one for the other. One little dip of the sharp end of a wood toothpick into the oil and then wiped on to a piece of bread so it wouldn’t get lost would do more for the afflicted than two rounded tablespoons of nose-held dosage of castor oil.

We had a druggist in the town where my Granddad had his store. He was a fine man, a staunch Baptist, was well-liked and respected by all. I’ll not mention that he also had a beautiful daughter who was the outstanding town belle because that has nothing at all to do with the story.

Someone heard one of those made-up stories and one of his Odd Fellow friends hung it on Doc. I think they were still friends after the story came out. The fact that his drug store was located on the main corner and one of those poles which carried all the electricity the town had or needed stood directly across the street from his front door. They only needed one pole every few hundred feet because that was back before air conditioning and such and didn't need as much electricity as you do today. If you wanted to cool off on a hot day, you went to the drug store and sat under one of those big old ceiling fans. I’ll tell the story here, but don’t you believe one word of it.

Doc hired an ol’ country boy to run errands, tend the soda fountain and keep the toilet paper rack filled. Doc had to go uptown which was almost an entire block away and left the boy in charge. He told him to NOT dispense any medicine, but to tell the customer that he would be back in about an hour.

A suffering customer came in, sneezing so hard he could hardly catch his breath nor wipe the tears from his eyes between ahchoos. He pleaded with the clerk to give him something to stop his sneezes. He broke Clem’s resolve when he told him that he couldn’t live until Doc got back. The boy, filled with pity, took a bottle of croton oil and handed it to the victim at no charge and told him to take it.

When Doc came back and asked if he had any customers, the clerk told him what he had done, Doc turned white as a leghorn hen and said, "My word, boy, that stuff won’t stop his sneezing."

The boy replied, "The heck it won’t. Look at him standing over there hugging that pole. He’s afraid to sneeze."

I know that by now you must be wondering where all that is heading.

I just heard a well-known politician making all kinds of asinine remarks and accusations about another well-known politician (I hope you noticed that I didn’t name any names) and it dawned on me that the party of the first part must have got hold of some croton oil and thought you were supposed to inject it into the lower end.

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