Now and then I walk down to the city shop early in the morning to have coffee with the men from Public Works. They meet an hour before work to drink coffee and tell lies. It is kind of like they unwind before the work day starts rather than after it is over. Although I can’t join them every day, I enjoy feeling accepted as one of the gang. I am honored they invite me.
So the other day when I hobbled into the shop more crippled than usual, Richard frowned and asked me, “What’s wrong with you today?”
“I think I broke my toe,” I answered. I pulled my sock off and bared my foot for all to see. “I stubbed my toe on the frame of an Amish buggy seat that I had just recovered. I thought I’d set it out of the way. But I turned around and ran right into it. Blood flew everywhere. I will lose my nail for sure.”
“Did you put Bag Balm on it?” Richard asked.
“Well, sure. Don’t you put Bag Balm on everything?”
“The pharmacist said if he didn’t carry Bag Balm, he’d probably go out of business,” interjected Vic.
At my house there has always been a square metal can of Bag Balm. When I see the level drop near the bottom of the can, I hurry to buy a replacement. I have a can for my shop, a can in the bathroom and I keep an extra can for when I travel.
Nowadays the Bag Balm comes in three different brand concoctions. I’ve tried them all. I call them gooey, gooier and gooiest. I prefer gooier. You can buy one in a tube. Or a giant economy size. Or in a cute little teeny baby can. It’s all pretty much the same thing—glommy yellow salve.
I’m not saying it’ll cure whatever afflicts you. But it sure works for a lot of things. For example, when my son Ben was a baby he broke out with a severe case of baby eczema. The doctor prescribed a marvelously expensive medication made mostly of lanolin and sulfur. I know because I was chatting with the pharmacist while he mixed the stuff and I knew that whatever he was cooking up, it was almost Bag Balm. After I used up that small jar, whenever a lesion would break out on Ben’s skin, I smeared on Bag Balm. It cleared his skin right up. Of course, with Bag Balm my baby smelled like coal tar. Maybe the stink is perfume to cows.
Dry skin has always afflicted me. In winters my skin would break and bleed. I remember as a small child getting ready for bed, smearing Bag Balm on my legs and pulling my dad’s long socks up to my knees. I wore my own socks over my hands and up to my elbows to keep the salve on my skin and off the sheets. Today I don’t wear the socks. Bag Balm keeps my skin soft, but the stuff gets on my clothes and on the sheets. Fortunately it washes out. Cuts? Bag Balm. Abrasions? Bag Balm. Rash? Bag Balm. Sun burn? Bag Balm. Calloused feet? Bag Balm. Fever blisters? Bag Balm. Leather softener? Bag Balm. Shoe polish? Bag Balm.
In addition, I have used Bag Balm to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, smother warts and loosen rusted bolts.
Bag Balm healed the cut on my toe. I will still lose the nail. Like I said, it doesn’t cure everything. If you see me in the store clearing the shelves of Bag Balm, you’ll know that either I suspect I have a dread disease or it is winter and my dry skin is driving me nuts.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after recently returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)