Appalachia Medicinal Remedies

Broken Legs

“Today’s medical procedures and equipment can make a broken bone seem to be little more than an inconvenience. However, that was not the case back in 1910, as experienced by my dad, Homer Parker who suffered a broken leg.

The accident occurred when my dad, who was seven years old, was accompanying his father to a sawmill with a load of logs on a mule-drawn wagon. The trip was taking them over a mountainous road. When they were about a mile and a half from home, the wagon hit a rocky spot and Dad was thrown from the wagon. Before Grandpa could stop the mules, the wagon wheel ran over my dad’s leg.

Grandpa suspected the leg was broken and since there was no house nearby, he picked up Dad and started walking and running toward home. Most of the route was up a mountain. When he reached the top of the mountain, he started screaming for my grandma, hoping she would be outside the house and would hear him. He yelled to her that Dad had broken his leg and asked that she send someone for a doctor. Fortunately, she was outside and did hear him.

Grandma, upon hearing the alarm, did some screaming herself. Her brother, Uncle Merida Weaver, who lived a half mile farther away heard her and immediately went to see what was wrong. He then walked and ran bout two miles to summon Dr. Goss. (Dr. Goss lived near where Mack Aaron’s Apple House is located today.) The doctor, traveling by buggy, reached Grandpa’s house in Bucktown about two hours later. He set the leg and splinted it with two pieces of lumber.

Dr. Goss recommended the leg be kept straight on a rigid surface until it healed. To do that they took an inside door down and made Dad a pallet on it. He lay on his back on the door, day and night, for six weeks. There was no cast to be autographed by friends and no means of mobility, as there would be now for a child with a broken leg.

I don’t recall my dad discussing that accident, so apparently the only lasting effect of the broken leg was a lifetime limp and arthritis in his later years. My grandma, who also suffered the lack of medical equipment, related to the story. She was paralyzed and bedridden with arthritis throughout the years of my knowing her.

—June Parker Edeker – “Reflections on Mountain Heritage”

You can find this piece, along with other writings in “Reflections on Mountain Heritage” published by the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy of “Reflections on Mountain Heritage” you can find it here for a very reasonable price.

My Papaw Wade suffered a broken leg as a young boy. He fell off the roof of a cabin. Much like the boy in the story the break resulted in a life long limp. Papaw never let that limp get in his way, he was a hard working man.


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  • Reply
    December 30, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Well I dont know about broken leg but I sure do know about a broken wrist in 3 places. I had to have surgery and they put a plate and 9 screws in it. That happen about 8 months ago.i still have problems with it. Never want to go through that again.

  • Reply
    Dena Aaron Westbrooks
    December 30, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Really enjoyed this story it brings back memories of my grandmother who was born in the mountains of Fannin County and lived to be almost 101. She was always worried that someone in the family would be sick or injured. She did not trust doctors or hospitals. She thought if you went you wouldn’t come back.
    My daddy’s family are all from the mountains of Gilmer/Fannin Counties arriving well before the Civil War.
    Mack Aaron is my daddy’s first cousin. Their great grandfather came from Bedford County Tennessee and was well known for his apple grafting abilities.
    I miss my grandma terribly along with her stories full of superstitions and Appalachian folklore.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    My Father was 7 when he was thrown from a mule he was riding and broke his arm. They sent for the doctor and they brought out a table in the yard to lay him on with his much older brothers holding him down while the doctor set his arm. It healed just fine and I never noticed him holding back on working on anything as long as he lived to 87.

    Running at night trying to keep up with my cousins, I tripped over a pipe left on a sidewalk and fell on my left arm. We were down south at my grandparents. I was 8 at the time. Knew immediately it was broke. My parents took me to the doctor and had it set. When we returned back home and after 8 weeks our doctor took off the cast. He told my parents that the arm had not been set correctly and would need to be broken and set again. I was in grade school at the time and was out for recess playing hopscotch when a kid lost control of his bicycle and ran into me. Yep, caused me to fall and catch with that left arm again’ Broke it again, so they set it again and I was in a cast for another 8 weeks. When they took the cast off that time they raked off dead skin. The arm looked so much smaller than the right one but time took care of it and I’ve never been hampered by it.
    My Grandparents knew a lot about herbs and using certain types of tree bark to make cough syrup. I do know that pharmaceuticals started out using herbs and such and still use some in making meds. Our ancestors did live in a more risky time and I am amazed at how they survived. My right knee was bone on bone and I finally had to have surgery. I am so thankful for good Orthopedic Surgeons. I have full range of motion in my right knee and can walk miles with it.

  • Reply
    Patricia Small
    December 30, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    It’s funny that my daddy broke his leg as well when he was run over by a wagon. The story goes that he was under a wagon playing with a mouse. The wagon driver who was not aware that he was under the wagon drove away running over his leg and breaking it. I remember my grandparents had his little homemade crutches in their chicken house. I guess that means (lucky for him) he didn’t have to be flat on his back for six weeks!

  • Reply
    December 30, 2020 at 10:49 am

    In those days people seemed to concern themselves very little about injuries. Children were allowed to almost raise themselves. There were many injuries, but most were not serious. Many times a visible scar was explained away with “that was from swinging on a grapevine.”
    As a nurse, I think maybe the biggest problem with medicine was when they steered away from God given herbs and common sense Instead they just wrote some chemical compound foreign to our body on a pad and sent us to the pharmacy. It could have gone either way back in the day, but the powers that be chose instead to follow the path of chemically compounded pills. They left behind all the healing herbs used for centuries, and good nutrition rarely mentioned. Too late to turn back now. While this is my belief, I am eternally grateful for all the advances made in safety during childbirth, and a broken bone needs a good Orthopedic doctor. We created this monster called modern medicine over time, and now it has gotten out of hand. Our bodies were built to heal themselves a great deal, and the old timers understood that concept.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    December 30, 2020 at 9:42 am

    I am always amazed at our ancestors’ resilience, how they kept going in spite of everything. My great-great grandparents had seven children: two were stillborn, one died of pneumonia as an infant, and one died at age thirteen of complications from (we think) polio; the only son who lived to adulthood was killed in a mining accident at age 26 when a slate fall crushed his chest. Out of seven children, only two daughters ultimately died of old age. That’s five children buried, and yet in every picture I have of my great-great grandmother, she is smiling and seemingly as happy as she possibly could be under the circumstances. There are very few people today who could come through that and be so strong.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 30, 2020 at 9:28 am
    Skip ahead to about 3:12 if you want to.

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      December 30, 2020 at 2:51 pm

      Mr. Ammons, there was a man in my home county with no arms. But he drove a dump truck. And he was reputed to be able to squirrel hunt with a shotgun. I was told he could drop on his back, hold up the barrel with one foot and fire with the other. I was never around him personally but did meet him on the road driving the dump truck. He was rather well known to sell adult beverages but was rarely ever bothered by the law. Beer was readily available out of state in the next county south so it wasn’t as if his activitirs made much difference in that regard.

    • Reply
      December 30, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      Ed, I watched a show on RFDTV that featured this farmer. He was connecting a pto shaft to a tractor with his feet, (anyone that has done this knows how difficult this can be even with two good hands) spray painting a wheel and other things that seemed impossible. It was amazing. As I said earlier, it continues to amaze me with the way handicapped people learn to overcome their handicaps.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2020 at 9:08 am

    My parents never allowed us to ride a bike, go swimming or play any kind of sports for fear of us breaking a bone. I know they meant well and didn’t want to see their children hurting or limping the rest of their life. When I became an adult, I played all kinds of sports and never broke a bone. My brother-in-law just had a bad break that required pins and plates to help support it, yet the cast only stayed on two weeks. How times have changed!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 30, 2020 at 8:56 am

    This story and the comments bring to the fore the whole idea of risk and consequence, especially the ability to deal with consequence. I lived risky as a kid because, being a kid, I often misjudged risk and gave no thought to my ability to deal with the consequences of being mistaken. I had somr narrow escapes because of it. Mom and Dad never knew. I may well still be doing it as I like to walk in the woods and am likely to be alone. I have no cell phone and do not want one. And I know, but not by personal experience, that even a bad sprain a mile or so off the road is fairly serious. So I’m more careful about my footing but I don’t stop going. Lord willing, I won’t get past being able.

    Our ancestors lived in a much more risky environment. They understood that and accepted it, up too and including premature death, such as from childhood diseases we now think of as little or no threat. I guess that fosters the attitude my Dad had when he would say, “You can do what you have to.” because you have no choice. I sure hope I never have to set and splint my own broken leg. I wonder what I would decide in the choice between trying to hobble ou or wait to be found. Sure would hate to put people out in coming to hunt me. That’s lots harder than one might think and harder still to carry somebody out.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2020 at 8:51 am

    I have never broke any bones that I know of unless I broke my big toe trying to kick a football stuck in ground, no kicking tee. It is crooked. But I think a lot of how far medicine has advanced. I cut the grass at my church and the church cemetery when I was a teenager and remember seeing the number of baby or young children’ grave, now think about what can be done to save a baby’s life. One of the graves belongs to my sister. Another thing is how people with handicaps overcome them. It amazes me to watch them and see how they have learned to work around their handicap. We recently had a washing machine worked on and the repairman only had one hand. He was just as good as someone with two hands. My first supervisor had his right arm cut off in a sawmill accident, but had a pincher type of artificial arm. It was something to watch him lift and stack boxes of children’s clothes over his head. Us teenage boys were more amazed by him driving a 55 Chevy hot rod with a 4 speed manual transmission.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    December 30, 2020 at 8:38 am

    My step-grandmother broke her ankle and set it herself, binding it tightly with cloth she had on hand. She and Grandpa lived on a one-horse, one-cow, one-pig farm at Salem (Oconee County), SC, and owned no vehicle other than a wagon. Several days passed before she was able to arrange transportation to Seneca to see a doctor. He X-rayed her ankle, commended her work, said he could do no better, and sent her home. She healed perfectly.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    December 30, 2020 at 7:51 am

    Years ago, people had to be strong, resourceful and fast in such situations as accidents happened frequently. Pay close attention to the outcomes- “They were all fine.” As a nurse, I get disgusted when I see DANCING CHOREOGRAPHED NURSES supposedly overwhelmed in sickness and death having a dandy time for all to see on video. Take it from this nurse, heal thyself and always expect healing from God not a person and don’t believe in strangers when only loved ones truly care…. get some coal oil and a hard head and you’ll be fine… learn homeopathic remedies that aren’t manufactured for a profit….

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 30, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Medicine has certainly come a long way. Things that could destroy a life are today cured with a few pills. So, I wonder what the future holds for medicine, maybe a hand held instrument that can cure broken bones and other things …like they have on star Trek!

  • Reply
    Tammy Howard
    December 30, 2020 at 6:34 am

    I love your stories! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    December 30, 2020 at 6:32 am

    I can relate to the story. Broke my right leg the first time at about 8 yoa in the fall of 1960 roughhousing with my sister. We didn’t understand it was broken on Saturday morning so didn’t go see Doc Barnes until Sunday morning after a long night. Spent 8 weeks in a cast and on valentines day 1961 was wrestling on the steps to the lunchroom at school with a classmate and broke it again! We didn’t want to get in trouble, so we didn’t tell the teacher. My #3 sister that was 3 grades ahead of me helped me get on the bus home, and my #2 sister that was a HS senior carried me piggy-back the 1/2 mile from the highway to our house. Mom was cooking supper when we got home and I set down on a couch in the kitchen. She asked “How was school?” and I replied “I broke my leg”. Mom said “Thats nice” and kept right on cooking. She obviously wasn’t paying attention to my reply. When Dad got home from work our milk cow was at the empty water trough complaining because it had no water. That was my job to be done as soon as I got home from school.

    Dad came in the house, saw me sitting on the couch and wanted to know why the cow hadn’t been watered. I told him my leg was broken. He knelt down, felt my leg and moved the bone back and forth inside my leg and said “Yes it is. We will have to take you out to the emergency room after supper.”

    After another 8 weeks in a cast, the Doc Barnes took a look at my leg and realized the younger doctor who set my leg that night had set it crooked. My knee and foot do not point in the same direction. There was some discussion of breaking it again to streighten it out, but I pleaded with my Dad not to let them do that. Had a bit of trouble during my physical at Coast Guard boot camp when a corpsman pulled me out of line when he noticed something “funny” about my leg. Had to march up and down the hallway in my skivies infront of the PHS doctor trying very hard to make my right foot land straight. Must have done OK as he told the corpsman to put me back in line with the rest of the company.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    December 30, 2020 at 6:11 am

    My mother was born in 1912. When she was 12 or 13, she broke her arm. I guess I never asked her how she broke it. Anyway, her dad gave her the choice of whether to see a doctor or not. She chose not to, and nothing was done for the arm. The only lasting result of this was that she never could straighten that arm completely. I don’t think it slowed her down at all, or bothered her, because she used to do a lot of wallpaper hanging for friends, relatives, and neighbors, and did a good job of it; later on in her life she had some factory jobs, too. The arm that she’d broken didn’t seem to limit her at all.

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