Aroma Therapy

Wherein illustrator Sterling Hundley ponders a fragrant lesson on a familiar cliché.

In their book, Grazing Along the Crooked Road, Betty Skeens and Libby Bondurant introduce this story from Wise County storyteller named Ron Short with this caveat: “If you feel the need, put the saltshaker on stand-by.”

     When I was a young boy, maybe 8 or 10, there was a preacher in the county who held services at different churches. He was tall and lanky and everybody called him Long Noey. Now they didn’t call him that because he was long and thin, but because of the amount of time he preached. … One Sunday, Long Noey was at our house and heard me say that I would never eat a particular food. He took me to task. “Boy, don’t never say never. You don’t know what you might do under different circumstances.”

     Then Long Noey continued with a tale to confirm his point. “When I was growing up, people still believed in making a medicinal tea from sheep dung. It was used for a croup, to help measles break out, maybe pneumonia, and various things. I told Mommy not to ever, under any circumstances, try to make me drink that stuff. ‘I’ll never take that sheep dung tea,’ I repeated time and time again.

     “That was that, until I got sick and thought I was going to die. Finally, it got so bad, I said weakly, ‘I might could drink some of that sheep dung tea.’ But [Mommy] didn’t hear me, or was too busy. … Finally, with my last ounce of strength, I sat up in bed. ‘Mommy, I think I could drink some of that sheep dung tea, if you’ll fix me some,’ I whimpered and fell back on the bed exhausted. I drifted off.

     “A little later I came back around to see Dad come in from outside with a small bucket of sheep droppings. Mommy was putting water on the stove to boil. ‘Mommy,’ I called out weakly, ‘if you’ll bring it to me, I might could chew on one of them there pills while you get the water boiling for the tea!’

     “So, son, take it from me. Don’t never say never!”

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