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Irons in the fire: Self-medication and Grandma

Contributed by Paul Marchant Published on 26 February 2016

When I was a kid, one of my favorite treats was a chunk of sugar and sour something-or-other with a Sweet-Tart label, if I remember right. It was the exact size and shape of a big old sulfa bolus.

I don’t think I particularly liked the flavor of the candy, but it only cost a few cents, so with a couple of dimes we could outfit the whole crew of cousins with a pile of pills, as it were.

My older cousins seemed to really like the nasty things so, naturally, I succumbed to peer pressure and acted like I loved them too. We called them cow pills because that’s what they looked like. I may not have always been the brightest child, but I did know the difference between the candy and the bovine treatment.

It was enough of a chore to spend 15 minutes licking on the candy like a salt-hungry bull on a selenium block. I certainly was not going to waste my time doing the same thing to something that tasted even worse.

One summer afternoon, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, a couple of my cousins and I were sitting on the porch of my grandparents’ house while we waited for the hay crew to unload a load of hay before we headed back out to the hayfield to turn bales for the crew as they picked up another load.

We were licking on a pile of our cow pills, as we called them, no doubt pontificating on serious matters and arguing about who had to feed the calves at milking time.

Grandma was in the kitchen, but she caught enough of our conversation to realize she needed to act quickly and decisively if she wanted her dim-witted posterity to survive. She burst out the screen door and, quick as a cat, confiscated our stash of cow pills, all the while chastening us for our irresponsible behavior. We should know better than to be eating cattle medication.

Did we want to get our stomachs pumped, for crying out loud? I didn’t even know what that meant. I’m still not sure if I know what it means. I did know, however, that it didn’t sound very pleasant. No amount of pleading and explaining on our parts did anything to dissuade her from her rescue mission. (Which, I suppose, speaks somewhat to our reputations as well-behaved, truth-telling grandchildren.)

Fast-forward about four decades to a meeting of great minds at a cow health seminar sponsored by the local county agent and the extension office. In between sessions, a conglomeration of cowboys, ladies and cowmen were discussing the day’s events and topics.

It was late winter, and many of the participants were either neck-deep in calving season or just about to be. Naturally, with the stress and weather of the season, everyone had a story about some personal illness or other, how he or she treated it and whether or not said treatment worked.

From probiotics for hangovers to moldy colostrum for colds, it seemed like there was no shortage of remedies for any illness.

Andy was a true believer in the oral use of Oxytetracycline-100 and its ability to cure any ailment that had ever beset him. He noted that he used to use LA 200, but his vet told him it could potentially be a little rough on a guy’s kidneys, so he switched to 100 instead.

Bubba said he used to drink Tylan in his coffee, but he couldn’t add enough sugar to make it worth the trouble of gagging it down. He said all of the bovine-approved medication he’d ever tried all tasted like some form of fecal matter, and he didn’t think it worked anyway.

Morgan, who had cowboyed from the high plains to the high desert and everywhere in between, listened intently to every discussion but spoke nary a word until the commotion died down. He said he’d self-diagnosed and self-medicated himself many a time.

His latest doctor visit to himself may have cured him of his self-doctoring, though. Seems he was out around Jordan Valley consorting with a genuine buckaroo bunch. Several in the group had been bragging about how they’d made quick recoveries from a night on the town with a couple cc’s of B12.

The wife of one of them had contemplated becoming a nurse a few years back and could be fairly gentle with a syringe and a 20-gauge needle.

Not wanting to be out-toughed by his compadres, Morgan confessed that he was suffering from a minor cold. He asked about their suggestions for a cure. The collective wisdom of the group decided that a shot of penicillin in his derriere would fix old Morgan right up.

Somebody ran out to the fridge in the barn and came back with a bottle of the thick white wonder drug. So he dropped his drawers an inch or two, so as to allow Mrs. DVM access to a good spot to stick him.

To this day, Morgan has no idea whether or not his sniffles were cured, but the shot dang sure made him forget about his cold. His entire backside and hip turned black and blue, and he could hardly sit or walk for two weeks. He thought maybe his nurse miscalculated his weight.

He claimed that the next time somebody tries to put him in the sick pen, they’ll have to rope him and stretch him out because there’s no way they’ll get him in a chute, and he’d just as soon die from the ailment as suffer through the cure.

It’s too bad his grandma wasn’t there to save him.  FG

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