Lori Austin & An Outlaw in Wonderland


The second book, AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND, in my western historical romance series “Once Upon a Time in the West” was released on June 4th.  This series is set in the post-Civil War period.  However the incidents that set the heroes and heroines on their path occurred during the war.  This second book begins at Gettysburg in 1864 and moves to Chimborazo Hospital and Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond.

As the hero of OUTLAW is a physician, and the heroine a matron at the hospital (when they aren’t spying for opposite sides) I did a lot of research about Civil War era medicine and became fascinated by it.  They knew a lot more than we thought they did back then, or at least a lot more than I thought they did.

The casualties of the Civil War were the greatest in our history.   Most estimates put the death toll at 620,000, though some go as high as 700,000.  For the Union, over twice as many died of disease as died in battle.  The names of the diseases were as colorful as their symptoms–the King’s evil, a strangery, erysipelas, pyemia, paroxysms.

Most physicians were aware of the connection between filth and infection, however they had no idea how to sterilize equipment.  Because of the conditions–an overabundance of wounded, tents and barns used as field hospitals, a lack of any water, let alone clean water– doctors often went days without washing their hands, thus transferring bacteria from one man to another.  A small cut on a hand could result in a “surgical fever” for the doctor himself.   And penicillin wouldn’t be discovered for another seventy odd years.

In AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND, Ethan Walsh believes that putrefaction is a result of invisible particles in the air. If they entered an open wound, infection set in. The particles could travel on the instruments used, the sutures, even the surgeon’s, the nurse’s, or the patient’s hands.  Therefore, Ethan washes everything that touches his patients, including the doctor, with a mixture of alcohol and water.  Fewer of his patients die than any of the other physicians’.  Most think him insane.  Annabeth Phelan sees him as both beautiful and brilliant.

While the concept of “biting the bullet” has become legend, in truth most operations were performed after the administration of ether or chloroform.  Reports of screaming from the operating tents were most likely the screams of men who’d just learned they would lose a limb rather than their screams as they were losing it.

Chloroform and ether was administered by dripping the liquid onto cloth then holding the cloth over the patient’s nose.  When he went limp, the operation commenced.  Not the best technique, but better than the alternative.  Many soldiers were only half asleep when the operation began.  Stonewall Jackson was said to have remembered the sound of the saw cutting off his arm.  In the Civil War, speed was often a surgeon’s best technique.

If a soldier survived surgery and escaped fever, pain might be alleviated by laudanum or morphine, which was made from the opium poppy.  Often the drug was rubbed directly onto the wound in powder form.  The liquid form could also be injected.  As laudanum, the drug could be added to water and made more palatable with sugar.  The drug in either form was highly addictive.  Such addiction, its symptoms and cure, also plays an important part in OUTLAW.

In this trilogy, brain injuries play a significant role.  During the Civil War, as now, the brain is a mystery.  Injuries to it–be they from a Minié ball, or a knock on the noggin–are treated with a combination of guesswork and hope. 

I became fascinated with Civil War era medicine, and enjoyed filtering it through the “Once Upon a Time in the West” series.

Do you enjoy learning about other time periods?  What’s your favorite time period?  What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about it?


I’ll be giving away a copy of the first book in the “Once Upon a Time in the West” series, the RITA nominated, BEAUTY AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER to three of today’s commenters, chosen at random.

Guest – Ann Shorey . . . Is There a Nurse In the House?

Many thanks to Karen Witemeyer for inviting me to be a guest blogger today to spread the word about my newest novel for Revell, Where Wildflowers Bloom.

Wildflowers is the first in the Sisters at Heart series and is set in Missouri shortly after the end of the War Between the States. When I worked up the proposal for this series, I had my characters and their occupations set in my mind. I planned that one of the characters, Rosemary Saxon, would be a nurse during the war, and then would follow the same occupation afterward. 

Well, surprise, surprise. When I began to research nurses in the Civil War, I learned that very few of them were women, and the ones who were female were generally older and/or widows. For a young unmarried woman to touch men’s bodies, even to tend to wounds, was considered vulgar. Throughout the war, male nurses outnumbered female nurses 4 to 1. The general public believed women would only be a nuisance and get in the way of the doctors.

Where female nurses were allowed, they were required to be plain-looking women. Their dresses were to be brown or black, no bows, no curls, no jewelry, and no hoop-skirts. The last prohibition made sense, since the hospital aisles were narrow. 

So, where did this leave Rosemary, who was to be a continuing character in the series? Using my artistic license, she’s attractive, not plain, but I did make her “old.” She’s twenty-seven. J In addition to her God-given gift of mercy, she’s also determined to the point of being headstrong. She needs to be to stand up to the prejudice she encounters.

In Where Wildflowers Bloom, Rosemary is the best friend of the story’s protagonist, Faith Lindberg. Oh, and did I mention Rosemary has a brother, Curt? How many of us remember having girlfriends with handsome brothers? I’ll just say that through Rosemary, Faith and Curt end up spending quite a bit of time together.

So, like Rosemary, have any of you taken a job in what is considered a man’s field? Did you encounter prejudice? On a more romantic note, did any of you ever fall in love with the brother of your best friend? How did it work out?

 I hope you’ll look for Where Wildflowers Bloom at your local bookstore, or through an online retailer. Please visit my website at www.annshorey.com for more information about Where Wildflowers Bloom, as well as my other books.

Where Wildflowers Bloom

How far will she go to follow her dreams?

 The War Between the States stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg—as well as Royal Baxter, the man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to Oregon to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her. But first she must convince her grandfather to sell the family’s mercantile and leave a town their family has called home for generations.

When Royal Baxter suddenly returns, Faith allows herself to hope that she and Royal will finally wed. But does he truly love her? Or will another man claim her heart?


Ann has graciously agreed to give away a copy of Where Wildflowers Bloom today, so be sure to leave a comment in order to be entered in the drawing!

Say Cheese!

Ever wonder why people never smiled in those 19th century family portraits? Some will tell you that since photography was such a rare occurrence, people wanted to treat the special occasion with appropriate dignity. Others propose that sitting for a photograph took so long back then, no one could manage to hold a decent looking smile without it slipping. But there’s another possibility. What if the serious miens of our ancestors were due to the fact that they wanted to hide their teeth?

Yesterday, my 13 year-old daughter got braces. These days, teens are more likely to wear them than not. It’s almost a rite of passage. After all, no one wants to endure the unsightliness of crooked teeth if there is a way to improve upon what nature wrought. But what of those poor Victorian souls who were stuck with misshapen smiles? Did they have any recourse?

By the mid- 1800s, dentists had begun exploring the realm of orthodontia and developing treatments for their patients. But in these early days, the deformity (or the patient’s vanity) would have to have been of significant proportion to motivate someone to submit to such creative dental inventions.

The instrument on the right was reportedly used to correct a crossbite in a 15-year-old girl in 1859. The telescopic bar across the bottom could be gradually lengthened to widen the palate while adjustable spur screws were used to reposition the incisors. The poor girl had to wear this contraption for several months. Can you imagine? I hope she had gorgeous teeth when she finished the process.

If the dear girl had waited a few years, she might have been able to try out one of the lovely specimens below. The one on the left is a head cap designed in 1866 for extra-oral traction. A gold frame covered the incisors, and elastic straps connected it to the beautiful head cap. Plop a bird and few feathers on that, and she could have started a new millinery fashion. But if she really wanted a cap to stop traffic, she could wait a few years more, and in 1875 become the proud owner of the tooth regulating machine on the right. Just think of the five wagon pile-up that would ensue on main street when she stepped out in such a gripping piece. The steel rod was attached to the crooked tooth by an elastic ring. Then they would tighten the elastic strap between the head cap and the steel rod in order to produce the necessary traction.


By the turn of the century, braces had become more humane. Dentists figured out how to wrap bands and wires around teeth. In order to do this, though, they needed malleable metal. So what did they choose? Gold, of course. Fourteen- to 18-karat gold was commonly used for wires, bands, clasps, etc. And you thought braces were expensive now! Just think what it would be like if your teenager had a mouth full of gold. Thank heaven for stainless steel and modern advancements!

All in all, I must say I’m thankful to be a 21st century parent. And my daughter is much happier with the results this way, too.

Leann Harris – Equine Therapy

I want to thank Tracy for inviting me to blog.  My latest book, Second Chance Ranch, is about equine therapy and how it changed the lives of both the hero and heroine.  I read in our local paper a human interest story about an Iraqi veteran who lost his leg in a road side bomb and how equine therapy is used to help veterans.  The instant I read that article, it called to me.  I knew I had to do a story about it and thus was born my book.

I normally write suspense (12 books), but this time the story turned into a romance.  Well, I didn’t that stop me, so I started on my journey.  I read everything I could get my hands on concerning veterans and equine therapy. I ran across several articles in NARAH Strides about how horses are used to help people who’ve lost their limbs regain their balance and rebuild the muscles used in walking.  http://narha.org/resources-education/resources/narha-horses-for-heroes  I discovered a new world of the benefits of horses and what wonders they work.  Children with physical problems can use this therapy, emotionally troubled youths benefit from the responsibility of caring for a horse.  I went out to my local equine therapy ranch and spent the day with them, seeing how the therapist works with smaller children.

I also went down to Shiner’s hospital and talked to the head of the prosthetics department.   We spent time going through the department and he explained how to fit an artificial limb and the process the patient goes through.

Now, I have the background, but who are my hero and heroine?  That’s the exciting part of writing.  Finding your hero and heroine and discovering who they are.  I am a westerner and any story I do is set in the mountain west—Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Texas and Louisiana (it sneaked in).  My hero, Zach, was raised on a ranch in New Mexico and rodeo all his life.  When he loses his right leg below the knee, he doesn’t know how to deal with his life.  And my heroine is an army medic, but also a horse person and ridden all of her life.

As I was researching this story, I talked to a friend who grew up in West Texas and always had horses.  She tells me of her mare who when she sees my friend trots across the pasture and follows my friend around like a big puppy.  Who knew?   When I got to know my horses, Prince Charming, a big black gelding, and Brownie, a little mare who the children ride, they were full blown characters.  I could say that Charming is a wonderful counselor and helped both my hero and heroine work out some thorny problems.  My characters blogged this last month and will probably continue to blog for probably another month.  Kind of the story behind the story.  It’s the characters view of what happened.  I’m tempted to do the horses’ view. I hope if you’re interested you visit my websites, www.leannharris.com and www.barbharrison.com

I also just got good news.  Zach McClure has a brother and sister.  I’m going to get to do those stories, too.  Thanks for having me.

Readers, in honor of her visit, Leann is giving away one copy of SECOND CHANCE RANCH. Just join the conversation with Leann to be entered in the drawing–and be sure we have your email address with your comment.

Lavender: Then and Now with Lynna Banning

Have you ever traveled in Provence?  If so, you may have admired the purple haze of lavender fields.  Lavender (lavendula angustifolia), known as herb de Provence, is a small aromatic perennial shrub grown for use in sachets and soap and for lavender oil which is used both as a medicinal and as a perfume.  Fresh, crushed, or dried the herb is used as a tea and as a stimulant, sedative, antiseptic, linen-closet freshener and moth repellant; it’s also sprinkled  in bath water and used to treat burns and bites.  Wands of stems can be tied in bunches and burned as incense sticks.  There is even lavender-flavored lemonade.

Historically, lavender (from the Latin verb lavare, to wash) dates from ancient times.  Ancient Egyptians used it for cosmetics and for embalming; Tutankhamen’s tomb contained jars of lavender-scented unguents.  Greek philosopher Diogenes anointed his feet with lavender oil so that it “envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose”.Lavender is thought to have been first domesticated in Arabia and, with the 7th century Arab conquest of the Middle East and Spain, the use of lavender spread throughout Europe.  Arab physicians and researchers such as Avicenna (980 A.D.) studied medicinal uses of the herb.

The plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed, requires good drainage, likes chalky soil and lots of sunshine and needs no fertilizer.  Extracting the essential oil is by steam distillation, just like brewing whiskey in a still.  One acre of lavender yields 300 to 1800 pounds of dried flowers or 2 gallons of essential oil.

Provence is now the world’s primary lavender producer; prior to World War I, the French government (and perfume-makers) saw lavender production as a means of keeping people from leaving the area of southern France, so the almond orchards were cleared to plant lavender. 

In America, Shakers were the first to grow lavender commercially.  Later, when the founder of modern-day aromatherapy, Rene Gattefosse, burned his hand while working in his laboratory, he used lavender oil,  which stopped the pain and healed the burn with no infection or scarring.  Today, lavender farms thrive in California, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and even upstate New York.

Interesting historical uses of lavender include the following:
When Henry VIII dissolved the English monasteries, lavender culture moved to domestic gardens.  Traditionally, it was planted near the laundry, and washed clothing was laid over the plants to dry with an enticing fragrance.  Mixed with beeswax, lavender made furniture polish.

Queen Elizabeth I drank a lavender tea to treat her headaches and was so enthusiastic about the plant she encouraged the development of lavender farms.  Charles VI of France stuffed his cushions with lavender.  Glovemakers in France were licensed to perfume their gloves with lavender because it was believed to prevent cholera. 

Queen Victoria loved lavender!  She appointed a special Purveyor of Lavender Essence to the Queen, and lavender came to be fashionable among her ladies.  Street sellers in London sold dried lavender; it was then put into muslin sachet bags for use in wardrobes and between bedsheets.  Young women wore small sachets in their cleavage to attract suitors.

And in the Old West, young and old women did exactly the same.

Can’t you just smell the lavender? In honor of her new release, Lynna is offering TWO of her backlist westerns to TWO lucky winners! Just leave a comment for your chance to win.

Visit me at www.lynnabanning.com

So Do You Want Mustard on Your….Chest? –Tanya Hanson

I’m not a sickly person. In fact, during my years teaching school, it was often more trouble to miss school than gut it out. And I get flu shots religiously every fall.

Nonetheless, I came down with two nasty cold/viruses during the flu season of 2009-2010 and needed medical care for a horrific cough and ear infection that had me deaf in one ear. Scary! Some of the doctor’s advice was no-brainer: rest, liquids, and salt water nasal spray. Therefore, Dr. Quinn fanatic that I am, I wondered how folks fared during cold season in days of yore.

 Some remedies from our homesteadin’ ancestors still prevail: Breathing steam. Cooking up a pot of savory chicken soup, and mixing up Hot Toddies. (not necessarily together LOL). However, the old “feed a cold starve a fever” has definitely lost favor. Light exercise, fresh air, and good nourishment have proved to be essential to a quick return to health.

Peeking through stuff for this post, I found a number of homemade cough remedies:

        ** 2-3 drops of kerosene on a teaspoon of sugar.

        ** Equal parts of oil of peppermint, friars balsam and tincture of red lavender. Also served drop by drop on a teaspoon of sugar.

       **  Syrup made from wild cherry bark, mullein leaf, slippery Elm powder, coltsfoot leaf, lobelia leaf, pleurisy root, elecampane root, and licorice root.

      **  Syrup made from honey, lemon and glycerin.

For sore throats, homesteaders and city dwellers like usually dosed with teas made from sassafras or black currants, and the always popular and effective lemon and honey. A gargle of sage and alum mixed in a glass of water supposedly helped as well.

 Cold and canker sores could be eased with tea made from the berries of wild rose bushes, or a daub of potash.

The concoction of one clove of garlic mixed in a cup of warm  milk was said to lessen the duration of the cold. Interestingly, today’s doctors know that an active compound in garlic, allicin, is an expectorant.

Another everyday kitchen ingredient, the onion, served importantly as well. The housewife would slice an onion and put in the sickroom. Supposedly the contamination was drawn into the onion so no one else got sick.

Furthermore, a few drops of onion juice into an infected ear was said to clear up the miserable condition in just two or three applications! (OK, not even on my worst ear day would I have tried this.)

In 1918, the following flu ointment was developed by druggist, J.D. Higgenbotham during the flu epidemic of 1918.

2 large jars white Vaseline
2 oz. turpentine
1/4 oz. menthol crystals
2 cakes of camphor gum
1/3 oz. oil of peppermint
1/4 oz. eucalyptus
1/4 oz. oil of wintergreen

The ingredients were melted and mixed well over low heat and store in covered jars.

 However, when all’s said and done, the most formidable routine therapy was the mustard plaster. I’d come across it once or twice in the books I read as a child, and the word “plaster” freaked me out.

This was apparently a very powerful treatment: To prepare, dry mustard, flour, and lukewarm water were made into a paste. The plaster was then spread on a piece of muslin big enough to cover the chest, then covered with another piece of muslin over the top, placed on the chest with tape. The chest needed to be checked in a few minutes for signs of allergic reaction or blistering. The plaster was removed after about a half hour.

One old wive’s tale suggests using the white of an egg instead of water to prevent the blistering of the skin, and that’s shown on the “recipe” above.

While I’m sure many of the above herbal treatments are still affective today, Sunday’s Parade magazine had a list of old-time cold remedies not recommended to try at home LOL. I think I’d rather cough, sneeze, and burn up than Eat snakeskin, Stuff garlic gloves up my nose, or Rub my feet with tallow and turpentine and Hold them against a wood stove.  Yikes!

Stay healthy out there!

Laurie Kingery: Fixing What Ails You


It’s my very great pleasure to be guest-blogging once again at Pistols and Petticoats. My current release from Love Inspired Historicals, THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE, is the second in my “Brides of Simpson Creek” series. Hero, Dr. Nolan Walker, had been a doctor serving with the famed 20th Maine regiment and had seen all the carnage and death that war can produce. A widower, all he wanted from life after the war was to marry and seek the happiness he lost when his wife and child died before the Civil War.

After befriending a paralyzed Confederate officer and accompanying the latter home to Texas to die, Nolan decided to settle there and began corresponding with Sarah Matthews, a member of the Simpson Creek Spinsters Club, a group of women seeking to bring marriage-minded men to their bachelorless town. The relationship seemed destined for a happy ending until the two met (in the previous book, MAIL ORDER COWBOY, out in November from LIH). As soon as Sarah discovered Nolan was a hated Yankee, she wanted no more to do with him, for her fiancé had never returned from the war-why would she want to be courted by a man who had worn the hated blue? But a Comanche attack has left the town without a doctor, and Nolan stays on as the new town physician.

In my other, non-writing life, I am an emergency room nurse, so I’m pretty familiar with how modern doctors think and act. But to portray Dr. Walker realistically, I had to research the state of medicine in the U.S. in the 1860’s.

Medicine was still appallingly primitive. Medical colleges were still in their infancy, and most doctors learned their trade by apprenticing to an established doctor for a few years, working and living at that doctor’s house. While the first licensing law for doctors was passed in New York in 1806, many states later repealed their licensing laws, so quackery abounded and was not controlled in any way.

To quote Moliere, “Nearly all men die of their medicines, not of their diseases.” This was never truer than in the 1800’s. Most medicines were designed to make one vomit, urinate or defecate, and many doctors still believed in bleeding as a remedy. One of the most-used medicines was calomel, a powerful laxative made of mercury, which killed as many as it helped, yet its use went on.


In true intelligent-hero fashion, my Dr. Nolan Walker didn’t believe in using dangerous medicines like calomel, but he had appallingly few things he could use. The germ theory had just been proposed, and in the story he uses carbolic acid as a wound disinfecting agent, but many times the doctors could only resort to supportive therapy that gave the body time to heal itself. There were few hospitals, no x-rays, no antibiotics. One of the few painkillers was laudanum, an opium-based medicine, but wise doctors also used willowbark tea to relieve pain and reduce fever-for willowbark contains the ingredient in aspirin.

A doctor made house calls in his buggy, and his doctor bag might hold a stethoscope such as the one pictured, lancets, a few basic medicines and instruments. A doctor was expected to be able to handle childbirth as well as amputation-and when faced with treating an insane patient with a hysterical pregnancy, Nolan can only use his common sense. And when faced with an epidemic, as Nolan is in the story, he has to use every bit of his medical training and endurance to save as many as possible in Simpson Creek, especially when the life of Sarah Matthews, who battles the epidemic at his side, hangs in the balance. And then he has no choice but to call in the Great Physician for a consultation.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book. We’ll draw for it tomorrow. 

Readers can contact me at my website, www.lauriekingery.com

Thanks again to the Petticoats and Pistols Fillies for letting me visit!

Blessings, Laurie Kingery

Jo Goodman New Release–Marry Me

Trying to decide what I want to write about here turned out to be harder than coming up with ideas for my annual Christmas letter.  I think that’s because once I’ve finished working on a book, it’s out of my head.  Really, there’s a finite amount of storage space in my brain, and since I like to keep the synapses firing to answer Final Jeopardy, something’s got to give.  However, as it’s quite lovely to be asked to contribute to Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sacrificing all the money I could earn by playing Jeopardy at home in favor of hanging out with the characters I created for Marry Me, and, I hope, some characters hanging out here.

Marry Me gave me the opportunity to revisit Reidsville, the Colorado town at the center of my previous release, Never Love a Lawman.  Sheriff Wyatt Cooper and his wife Rachel, as well as that no-account Beatty boy and Rose LaRosa, have supporting roles in Marry Me, but the stars are most definitely folks new to the town.

The driving force for this story began when I stumbled across a name for the heroine:  Rhyne (pronounced Ryan).  Somewhere there is a young woman working as a problem solver for iTunes with that name, proof that inspiration can come from unexpected places.  As Rhyne’s story unfolded in my mind, the hero also began to take shape.  He required a more impressive pedigree than Rhyne, and so Coleridge Braxton Monroe, M.D. was born. 

Some of the fun for me in putting this story together was doing the research related to doctoring and germ theory.  Cole’s practicing medicine in the 1880’s when some of the ideas we accept today were only being advanced.  Proposing the idea that disease could be caused and spread by something that couldn’t be seen didn’t settle well with many physicians, let alone the general populace.  Having spent more time than I liked in microbiology lab, I can attest to the fact that sometimes there’s stuff on the Petri dishes that you just don’t want to know about.

So…how do the town outcast, the new doctor, and germ theory all come together in a Western?  That’s where you’ll have to read Marry Me and find out.  For a lucky poster, I have a copy of the book ready to be sent out.  To whet your appetite, here’s the 411 from the back cover:


Rhyne Abbott is fierce, brave, and used to a life of isolation on her father’s spread on the outskirts of Reidsville, Colorado. But when, overcome with sickness, she collapses, she knows she must return to town if she is to have any hope of recovery. Only there is no place for her but the new doctor’s home, and he wants more than just to heal Rhyne. He wants her hand in marriage.


Doctor Cole Monroe’s hands are already more than full with his orphaned little sister to look after, and yet somehow he can’t resist the magnetic pull of Rhyne’s bewitching eyes—or her tempting kiss. But convincing her to trust him won’t be easy. For Rhyne’s heart needs as much tender care as her ailing body. And the only cure is the thing she most fears: to let herself fall in love…


Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Marry Me.


Native American Medicine

Good morning!

With health concerns being in the news more and more these days, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the average person’s state of health in the Native America of the past, as well as medicine, as defined by Native Americans, what it was – and medicine men — who were they?  What did they do?  And who were shamans?

Let’s begin with medicine.  In Native America, medicine meant the great mystery.  If one could cure the sick, that person had great medicine.  If a man could go to war and come home alive, he had great medicine.  Plants had medicine.  Animals had medicine.   And certain parts of  nature had medicine.  The word medicine did not mean a pill or even an herb or remedy.  It meant simply that a man or a woman had a special connection with the great mystery or with the Creator.  When the white man came with his boats and guns and various things that the Native Americans could not easily explain, the old time Indian called these things (not necessarily the person who used them – but the things used), medicine.  The picture to the right is a painting by George Catlin of a medicine man.

native-americans.jpgThe Native Americans of North America  enjoyed great health and a physcial beauty that would rival the most beautiful of the ancient Greeks.  So writes George Catlin in the mid-nineteenth century, as well as Prince Maximillian and Bodner, Maximillian’s friend and artist, who travelled with the Prince to America.  The Native Americans of the past had no processed food, and, depending on the tribe, they ate many things raw or dried.  Many of the North American tribes were tall and firm of limb and body and as history tells us, a very handsome people.

Food, clean water and fresh air was their medicine.  True, there were herbs that the medicine men & women might use to help their people, but a medicine man’s stock and trade was not merely in herbs alone.  Indians of North America (before their diet was changed) were known for their straight teeth, which did not decay, even into old age in many cases.  There was a saying with the settlers — “teeth as strong as an Indian’s.”  There was little tooth decay, illness was not the norm amnong the people, and many of the diseases that plague us today were completely nonexistent.  People lived (if they weren’t killed in wars) to a grand old age.  There were many people who lived well into their hundreds, keeping hold of their facilities until death.

july06-yukon-photo-4.jpgThey lived in a land of beauty with fresh air, warm breezes, wholesome food and the love of family.  So what did a medicine man (or shaman) do if presented with illness?  Or physical problems due to injury?  Well, I can’t say exactly, since I have not this lifetime been trained in the Native American way of medicine.  I do, however, know this.  The stock and trade of the medicine man was his ability to drive out the evil spirits which inhabited the sick person’s body.  It was known by these men that illness was often caused by evil spirits that would make their way into a person’s body.  So a medicine man’s cures often had to do with driving these spirits away.  Thus, the rattles and drums of the medicine man.

How successful were these people?  According to legend, they were fairly successful.  While they didn’t keep statistics as we do today, their fame was only as good as they could cure those who were sick.  While using herbs collected and dried, they never forgot that their aim was to rid the person of the evil spirit which had taken over a part of the person’s body.

On a final note, since whole foods were the basis of their “medicine,” let me take a moment to tell you about corn, as prepared by the Native Americans.  The Iroquois built strong, tall and healthy bodies based on the three sisters, corn, beans and squash, with corn being their main staple.  The diet was augmented with meat when it was available, but corn was their main diet. 

However, it was a different kind of corn than what we know of it today.  Our corn has been altered, and cross-bred and genetically modified until it is almost completely a carbohydrate.  Not so Indian corn.  The Indians knew that corn had to be soaked for days in lime water before it could be used as a food.  Of course we know today that corn has many anti-nutrients — phytates — those things that protect the seed or grain, but are irritating and stressing to the human digestive system.  Soaking the corn in lime did two things:  1) it got rid of the phytates or anti-nutrients in the grain, and 2) it changed the nutrition of the corn into a per protein with all the amino acids present.  This tradition of soaking cornmeal or corn in lime before use is still with us in the southern part of the country — masa flour is often soaked in lime.   And on this sort of diet, the Iroquois built a confederation that was so strong, that it influenced a whole generation of our forefathers, who saw in the Five Nations Confederation, an organization of government that permitted every individual in the nation freedom of mind, freedom of spirit and freedom of body.

Well, that’s it for today.  So tell me, what do you think of the medicine’s stock and trade?  What do you think of their main medicine — whole foods?  If you had lived at that time, would you have taken the time to learn about their foods and how they prepared them? 

I’d love to hear from you.    Don’t forget to pick up your copy of SENECA SURRENDER or BLACK EAGLE today!

Health Care: Old-West Style by Susan Marlow

With the national health-care debate on most everybody’s minds these days, I thought it would be enlightening to explore the options for health care in the Old West of the 1800s.

Technology exploded during the Gilded Age—the steam engine, electricity, the telegraph—marvels to behold! One would think medicine and health care would be right on track. Unfortunately, this was not the case. “Knife and pain” were two words always associated in the surgery-bound patient’s mind. Blood-letting (as much as a pint a day!) was still the “sure” technique to cure most illnesses—even into the late 1870s.

The brave folks who headed West discovered a new ailment: malaria, also know as the ague, which struck its victims with fever and chills. Very few escaped this disease. It was so common to Western life that it was considered normal: “He ain’t sick. He’s only got the ague” was an oft-heard remark.

Doctors were few and far between, if you could call them doctors at all (more about that later). Doctors could make two – three times as much money in the cities than in the country, so why would they hang around out West? The only treatment folks usually received was “He purged me, he bled me, he poked me. He never cured me.” So whiskey often served as a quick and effective pain-killer—it made the patient dead drunk.

Maybe you’ve complained about the high insurance and medical costs these days. Who hasn’t? Let’s take a look at what people paid for their health care in the late 1800s. Perhaps you’ll wish you were living back in the Old West.

Then again . . . anything you paid back then for services was too much, considering the actual, legitimate care you received in return:

Office call: 50 cents

House call (per mile): 50 cents (this could get expensive if you lived on a remote ranch 20 miles out of town). Some doctors would charge less if you fed his horse.

Labor and Delivery: $4.00

Fractures: $2.00 – $10.00

When you think that the average working-class family earned about $10.00 a week, it’s plain to see that most folks could hardly afford private medical attention. However, all things considered (the blood-letting, purging, sweating, etc.), this may not have been a disadvantage, and they probably lived longer.

Because guess what? The average patient had no clue if the new doctor (who had just hung up his shingle on the main street of Dodge City) was legitimate or not. The lack of education and proper licensing exposed the sick to all kinds of quacks posing as physicians. The medical field in those days did not attract the sons of the elite (they’d rather be lawyers), but instead attracted folks who saw a chance to get rich quickly. Most medical schools (and I use the term generously) were really diploma mills that required students to take only two, 4 – 6 month courses (the second course being a repeat of the first course). Even Harvard Medical School, which did have higher standards, rejected the idea of requiring a written examination for their graduates in 1869!

The diagnosis of the patient was based on guesswork (whether the doctor was educated or not), and the cure was totally unreliable. Sometimes the patient recovered; more often he did not. Especially if any kind of surgery was involved. During this “kitchen-table surgery,” the rural doctor was generally indifferent to any kind of cleanliness. Some of his instruments were not even rust-free (are you shuddering yet?). The doctor kept the sutures strung through his lapels or between his teeth for a handy reach. I guess the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” took on an all-too-serious meaning in the Old West.


The next time you visit a friend in the hospital, take a look around and send a prayer upwards that this place actually helps people get well rather than sends them quicker to the afterlife. Truly, the hospitals of the 19th century were the last resort for the poor. No person with any money at all would enter the doors of such a place, preferring rather to stay in their own, relatively clean and safe beds at home. I will mention that the Mayo Clinic was an exception to the general rule, but a private room in 1880 was $3.00 – $5.00 a day. Besides, the Mayo Clinic was a far cry from the Old West. Even so, most people knew that a hospital was a place to avoid, especially if one valued his or her health!

When you look at the news and wonder what our American health-care system is coming to, take a little trip down memory lane and try to imagine your health-care options of the late 1800s. Hollywood has glamorized most aspects of the Old West, but the truth is: The Good Old Days . . . They Were Terrible!


In honor of the release of my new Circle C Adventure Book 6, Andrea Carter and the Price of Truth, I’m offering an autographed copy. You can read the first chapter at www.circlecadventures.com

To enter the contest, just leave a comment about some aspect of health care—modern or old-time. Perhaps you have a health-care story from grandparents or great-grandparents.       Share and win!