Mineral Blocks and Toothpaste and Wormer, Oh My! The Reminiscences of an Odd Person With an Even Odder Childhood

Apparently, I had a strange childhood. I never realized this until a few years ago, when I was swapping 'back in the day' yarns with friends. Up 'til that point, I thought that everyone ate goat minerals, scavenged for wild edibles, and took dish soap for worms. Alright, well, the dish soap is a bit of a stretch. Mom gave us worm medicine that was the same color, smell, and consistency of dish soap. I never knew if it tasted the same, because dish soap was one of the few things I never tried to eat. I'd gotten my mouth washed out with a bar of soap a time or two, and that was enough soap eating for me. However, I did spend a large portion of my life believing that Mom was giving me soap for my worms, and so I subjected our long-suffering farm dogs to regular courses of Palmolive to keep them healthy.

Mom was (and is still) a firm believer in herbal remedies, and we kids had to take a various range of vile-smelling tinctures whenever we were suspected of having a bad case of worms, a cold, or any other ailment. Those tinctures had, reputedly, taken the finish off someone's dresser, and I always wonder what horrors they inflicted on my innards. Most of them tasted beastly, as well, and I still have memories of trying to hide my cold symptoms from Mom so I wouldn't have to take any medicine.

I pretty much lived outside during the summertime. My cousins, brother, and I would spend our days constructing forts in the woods, making poke-berry dye, eating things we probably shouldn't have, and generally enjoying ourselves. I was the adventurous one of the bunch, at least when it came to trying new cuisines. I don't know why it is, but to this day, I am still driven by curiosity to try anything and everything, though I have drawn the line at eating live worms. My guardian angels must have been extra-watchful, because I seldom came to grief. I can only remember one occasion where I had somewhat serious side effects. I had, as usual, been going through the bathroom cabinets, sampling little dabs of tooth paste and sucking the flavor out of some dental floss, when I came across a small bottle of vitamin E oil. It smelled good. I took a tiny dab on my finger and tasted it. It tasted good, too. I took a few more dabs. Several minutes later, I began to break out in hives. I was scared. Doubtless the vitamin E oil was doing something terrible to my insides, but I though that Mom would scold me if I told her what I'd done. Of course, the hives soon went away, and I never told Mom about my exploit. In fact, a great deal of my time back then was spent in concealing my strange eating habits from my parents and older sisters.

We had a mineral block in our pasture for the livestock to lick. I discovered that I could break off little pieces of it with a hammer and eat them. The mineral tasted good, and the eating of it scored me a few bravery points over my cousins, who were too squeamish (sensible) to give it a try. There was only one hitch. My sister had caught me pounding on the mineral block with a hammer one day. She told me I was wasting expensive minerals, and that I would be in trouble if I did it again. Her threats added an extra dash of excitement to my mineral-eating exploits, but they also made it necessary to munch with caution. I would surreptitiously break a piece off the mineral block, then run all the way to the back of our pasture, where I hid in the woods to eat it. There must have been a lot of salt in those mineral blocks, because I would be terribly thirsty after I'd eaten a piece. I would run all the way back to the barn to get a drink out of the hydrant before repeating the whole process again and again. Looking back, I wonder if Mom really knew (or suspected) something. Perhaps that was the reason behind the regular doses of wormer.

Joe and Charissa introduced me to the world of wild edibles. Luckily for me, they were competent teachers, and a healthy dose of caution kept me from experimenting with plants I did not recognize. I was utterly fascinated with the idea that I could walk right out the door and eat the violets, clover, and sorrel that grew in the yard. When I ranged farther afield, I could sample rose hips, sassafras, morels, and persimmons. I had heard someone talking about giardia, so I never drank any water from the pond, stock tanks, or creek. There was one narrow escape when Dad's apprentice jokingly tried to get me to drink water from our sewer field, but my innate skepticism stood me in good stead.

The memories go on and on. I could tell about my menagerie - singing toads, tame turtles, snakes, lizards, and mice - that I kept in an old chicken tractor. I could tell about all the daring (and foolish) adventures I had with my cousins. I could tell about...but this post is already over-long. I will have to save it all for another day, when I'm feeling nostalgic. Suffice it to say that, all-in-all, I think I had a lovely childhood. I learned a lot, came to comparatively little harm, and have many, many stories to look back upon when I am in need of amusement. 


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