November 23, 2010

A snippet from Great-Grandpa's Writings

Disclaimer: I did not write this story. As I did not write this story, it does not belong to me. All credit is due to my Great-Grandfather, Arthur E. Spencer.

Great-Grandpa Spencer and his siblings.

“Doc” J. C. Johnson, P.T.

I got into a very tough scrape with the same bug that killed my mother’s father, Harvey Farrar, out in the Dakota Territory in the spring of 1888 and my grandmother’s second husband, Henry Rextrew in February of 1924, while they were living on the farm across from the Spring Hill School – pneumonia.

There being no penicillin, Dr. Chapin’s only treatment was lots of liquids and mustard plasters. These were prepared by making a paste with lots of mustard. Take two tablespoons to a cup of flour, enough water to moisten and then spread this on a piece of cotton sheeting and cover with two or more thicknesses of cotton flannel to retain the heat. The plasters were heated by placing a pan of hot water on the “sandwich” and then placing the plaster on the back or front of the chest successively for half an hour every two hours. Somehow I survived the disease and the treatment, but barely! I became ill on March 22, 1922 and when school opened in the fall in early September, I was still too weak to walk more than a few steps. I had a coaster wagon and my sisters took turns hauling me to school, a journey of four blocks, to the old high school building in Columbiaville. After a few days, one of my “worst enemies”, J.C. Johnson, with whom I had engaged in many fights, hauled me home a few times. Then one afternoon, he proposed that we make a game of getting my strength back. Jay had a job of getting George McIntyre’s cows back to the barn on the hill a half a mile west of town. It would take about an hour. The key to Jay’s plan was Trixie, a boxer bitch. The plan was for me to slip my hand through the loop of the leash so I could not let go, hold Trixie by the collar till Jay could get out ahead of us about 50 feet. Then he would yell “Here Trixie” and we would go. Often sprawling in the gravel – sometimes bawling – but go we did. Day after day, longer and longer spurts, until in late October when the pasture gave out, I was able to run, really run, by myself!!

If J.C. had only written a paper and sent it to the County or State Medical Society, he might have become the father of Physical Therapy. The way Jay figured, if lame horses could be healed with careful exercise, maybe I could be made strong again. It worked, thanks to J.C. Johnson. The year again was 1922.