Myths, legends, stories, yarns, lies. Every family has them. Some are flat out exaggerations ( the more far-fetched the better). Some make us cry while others tickle our funny bones. Every now and then, you will hear one that makes you laugh so hard that you fall on the floor, holding your sides with tears running down your cheeks and pee running down your leg. When our extended family gets together, we love to tell the same yarns over and over and over. The funnier the better. It is quite possible, that the yarns get longer each time they are told until after a while, they don’t even resemble the original story. I swear that the stories I am going to tell you are the honest gospel truth.
Where shall I begin? My youngest brother, Francis, and I were a gold mine of bad ideas. We thought everything was funny and the crazier the better. Nothing was too outrageous for us. I don’t know how Mom put up with our shenanigans. I now, however, understand why she threw up her arms and implored, “Dear, Lord, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with these kids.”
She warned, “Just wait ’til your father gets home! You’ll get a lickin”. The final threat was, “Just wait until you have children of your own! “Before I confess what we did, I should point out that I believe the doctor dropped each of us on our heads, more than once, at birth. I can’t think of any other reason that would explain our behaviour.
Every Saturday Mom baked beans and made either biscuits or rolls for supper. On one particular afternoon, Mom had made bread and set it on the warming oven of the Kemac to rise. Then she disappeared from the kitchen to do more housework. Francis and I got the bright idea to snitch some bread dough to eat. No, that’s not what we did. We rolled it into little balls between our hot little hands and, believe it or not, threw the balls at the painted kitchen ceiling and papered walls to see how long they would stick. The dough left greasy spots everywhere the balls landed. It is a grave understatement to say that Mom was not amused. All I know is, she didn’t kill us. No matter how many times the wall was papered after that, the greasy spots always came through. Eventually, the wallpaper got replaced with wood paneling. No more greasy spots.
Speaking of grease, we dreamed up “The Vaseline Eating Contest.” Yes, you read correctly. We really ate Vaseline. Not just a spoonful, but gobs and gobs of it. How were we supposed to know it was made from petroleum? We had no clue what petroleum was. I don’t recall any nasty side effects other than a few extra trips to the outside toilet. We were “regular” for some time — if you know what I mean. That did not deter us in any way.
Our antics only got worse with time. We invented the “Be the First One to Jump of the Roof Challenge.” This took place one Sunday afternoon when Mom and Dad were away for several hours and had risked leaving us home alone. We could have played games, watched television or played catch. But, no, that wasn’t any fun. We were not interested in anything sensible or safe to do. We were looking for adventure, so we decided to climb up a ladder and jump onto the roof of the porch. Originally, we planned to chase each other around the roof for awhile and then climb back down the ladder. However, once we got up there, we changed our minds. We decided to kick the ladder down and JUMP off. We hadn’t considered the possibility of a broken arm, leg or worse. Francis jumped down in a flash, but I chickened out. I screamed and begged for him to put the ladder back up. He only grinned at me and refused. I spent the afternoon huddled beside the chimney shivering from the cold and wind. Hours later, when Mom and Dad pulled in the driveway, Francis ran like the dickens to put the ladder back up and down I came. That was the end of that lunacy. Lunatics, yes, that’s what we were.
Every now and then, our antics backfired on us. I think “The Minard’s Liniment Experiment” topped the list.
The old Minard’s label said the liniment could be used for “relief of minor rheumatic pains, common ordinary sore throat, neuralgia, sciatica, false or spasmatic croup, hoarseness, bronchitis, toothache, earache, headache, burns” and various bites, boils, sores, wounds, bruises and contractions. The list of animal ailments Minard’s once treated were impressive – colic, coughs, “galls of all kinds,” and a variety of hoof, foot and teat ailments.
This over-the-counter, liquid fire remedy was made of gum of camphor, water of ammonia, salts of ammonia and spirit of turpentine. It came in a bottle that contained a felt dabber to apply the liniment to your aching muscles. Not your lips! We decided to use it like lipstick. It is no exaggeration that our lips were on fire for hours, even days!
Recently, I learned that Minard’s Liniment was invented in Nova Scotia.
Minard’s was also sold by its creator with exaggerated claims. Dr. Levi Minard the King of Pain from Hants County, Nova Scotia, created Minard’s Liniment. The cream is a special liniment for easing stiff, sore muscles, and aching backs.
Mom had no sympathy for us. She said something like, “You two birds, got what was comin’ to you. If you are foolish enough to do that, you’ll have to put up with it. Now, quit cryin’ before I give you something to cry about. And stop that runnin’ around. One of these days you birds are gonna end up in the cellar!”
I think I will keep this information to myself. My children didn’t come close to behaving like Francis and I did. And I certainly do not want Isaac, Greta, and Maddie to know about it.
Maybe foolishness skips a generation.