No matter how much you think you know about herbs and all they can and cannot do for you; every good herbalist knows that you can always learn something new. And that it's always best to check yourself when it comes to making up potions, lotions and other recipes.
Gracie and Momma Sue made sure that they checked with the reference books and made up batches of remedies for coughing, headaches, hay fever, wounds, cuts, and other pains. They even made up some heart medicine for the few in town who needed to watch their hearts.
All the books were well cared for; but, worn. There was "The How To Herb Book" by Velma Keith and Monteen Gordon; Rodales Complete Encyclopedia on Herbs; "The Household Herbal" by Christopher Robbins; Jean Carper's "The Food Pharmacy"; "The Complete Guide to Natural Healing" by Tom Monte; "Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs" by Penelope Ody. There were more, these were just the ones they used that day.
Cough syrup was easy to make. They just added some mashed up chunks of ginger to Momma Sue's ‘home-grown’ honey. They knew it would be ready by the time they got it to the clinic and it would last a long time. And when it did crystallize, they could give it as “candy” to the kids. They also made up an infusion of marshmallow (not the kind you toast) flowers and leaves mixed with white horehound, for the more serious coughs.
"You know Momma; we are going to have to teach people how to take care of these kinds of little things so the clinic can be used for emergencies only. We are going to set up classes at the library, do you think you would like to teach some of the things you know?" asked Gracie.
"I don't know Gracie. Some of these here people don't take to listenin' very well and I'd have ta put them in their place ifin' they got outta hand."
"You can teach whatever you feel most people need to know and we will type up some sheets people could take home with them. You know I'll do whatever you need me to do. If anyone gets out of hand, they will be asked to leave. We don't need anyone who won't help themselves. But, I think we will have a big crowd and they'll be on their best behavior." said Gracie.
"Well, Ok Gracie; but, ya better be there!" replied Momma Sue.
They finished up with a lotion for those who had arthritis made up of cayenne pepper.
"I have a recipe for pepper cookies somewhere. I'm going to see if I can find it and make some. They sure are good and they make you forget your worries for awhile" said Gracie.
"I love those cookies girl...you better bring me some" said Momma Sue.
"I'll make them for the day you come teach at the library"
They finished up and packed up packages of herbs to mix later when they were needed. There was willow for pain, fever few for headaches; tea tree oil for small cuts and abrasions.
"Momma? What are we going to do about birth control?" asked Gracie.
Well, ya know that the only fur sure way to get no babies if fer ya to keep those legs closed!" exclaimed Momma Sue in her no-nonsense fashion.
"Yes and the guys need to keep their pants fastened also; but, we will need something since you know legs open and pants unfasten almost by themselves. Didn't you once tell me that the Indians use to use black and blue cohash?" asked Gracie.
"Yep, they sure did....both the mens and womens drank a tea made out of it. Let me think here...my granny told me that the blue cohash was fer the birth control and the black was fer the womens who was goin' through the change mostly...we need to look that up girl." said Momma Sue.
Momma Sue and Gracie ended up looking through all of the books that Momma Sue had.
"There isn't much here on birth control. Mostly things that never were proven effective or old wives tales. What we found on the blue cohash isn't anything we didn't already know...only that it's used to stimulate labor. The Indians may have taken it each month to clean out the womb, whether there was a baby or not. And the black cohash is for mostly older women whose hormones are not balanced. I'm beginning to think that we are going to have to come up with some diaphragms and a whole lot of education for the all the people in town." said Gracie. "Here's an interesting tidbit; the Chinese used to use salted plums." She couldn't help the small giggle that escaped from her throat.
"We're ta give the peoples the options and let them'all make up their own minds and deal with what comes of 'em." replied Momma Sue. "Salted plums and all."
They both had a good laugh.
"Ok, Momma. Let's get these packages ready to go. If we are gonna have a party tonight, I've got a lot to do at home yet. Besides, it's looking like we are going to just have to open a school on herbs and health and make everyone attend. We really won't be able to help too many people with the everyday kind of bumps and bruises. That's all we would be doing. People are just gonna have to learn how to take care of themselves."
They went out with the packages and joined the men where they learned that Sam and Bobby Joe would head back to Memphis first thing in the morning. They would take the truck with as little as possible. They knew they would be a target and so would take plenty of firepower. Also, they were hoping that at the party tonight, they would be able to convince a couple more of the guys to go with them. They were even going to ask Brooke to go if she was there. Chances were, she'd be there since she always seemed to know what was going on no matter if anyone told her or not.
Brooke was another one of the town’s eccentric's. She lived in an old building, on the south side of town that use to be a feed store that went out of business a decade ago. She taught some of the kids in town martial arts. She worked at nights as a bouncer at one of the rougher bars up in the big town of Jonesboro.
Even though she was only five foot three and about 100 pounds soaking wet, not many messed with Brooke.
Sam was hoping to slip into Memphis and slip right back out. Ron and Jim decided to hitch a ride back to Payneway in the morning with the group going to Memphis because there was still a lot of work to be done there on their farms and it was on the way.
"Maybe ya'all should hide and disable the truck on this side of the river and walk over the bridge. There is that small bit of land that is on the flood plain, you know where they sold all those fireworks last year?" said Gracie.
"Yea, I know where you mean. I believe that small stand of trees has plenty of cover. We would just have to make sure no one saw us. That's a good idea; I doubt we could drive over the bridge anyways. There would probably be too many cars on it." said Sam.
So with most of their plans set, Sam, Ron, Jim, and Gracie were taken back to Gracie’s by Billy Ray.
Tucker and Maggie were already there with Sammie.
"Daddy!!!" cried Sammie.
Tears came to everyone's eyes as Sam hugged his little daughter. Gracie walked over to Tucker and Maggie to catch them up on all that had happened. She also told them about Sam going back to Memphis to look for Sandra. They watched as Sam took Sammie off to the barn area to tell her what had happened to her mom and reassure her that he was going to do his best to find her.
As afternoon slowly turned to evening more and more people began to show up. They brought food, lanterns and their instruments. It didn't take long for the eating and the music to start. Many were dancing on the old barn floor and right out of the big barn doors that had been flung open and held there with a couple of bales of hay. They all were having a grand ole time. Momma Sue was even seen tapping her foot a time or two.
There were also small groups here or there and of course the discussion was about what they were "going to do" about "the situation". There were handshake deals and many a good suggestion made that night. Many would say later that if it weren't for that grand ole hoe down, there would have been a whole lot more trouble than there was.
Sam danced every dance with his daughter and Tucker danced with Maggie when he could pry her away from this group or that. Gracie danced with just about every male there so no one would think she was sweet on anyone.
Eventually, the group was able to convince Gracie and Maggie to do a duet with the banjo and fiddle. They first played a slow song that Gracie had written when her husband died. Gracie’s clear voice seemed to weave around the yard and bind the people there together with the air, trees, and moonlight. The song was very encouraging and had everyone shedding a tear or two but filled with hope for the future.
Then Maggie got her banjo going and launched into a raunchy ballad that had its birth in some tavern long ago. Gracie joined in with the fiddle on the second chorus. In no time, the whole crowd was hootin’ and hollerin’ and feeling renewed and refreshed with a firm purpose in their minds and hearts.
Even the "kids" were having a blast. With people sneaking them bits and pieces of wonderful food, they soon had very full bellies and they went off to stretch out where they wouldn't be in anyone's way. Except Spice, of course. She was sticking very close to Sammie who was eating a cup of homemade peach cobbler. Spice just LOVED homemade peach cobbler.
Sometime during the evening the final plans for Sam to go were finalized and yes, Brooke did want to go. They were going to leave before dawn and they all were going to sleep at Momma Sue's so they knew they would be well prepared and ready when it was time to hit the road. There was going to be six of them going so that they could split up into pairs and watch each others backs.
Long into the night, the music stopped. The food was all gone, dishes washed and put away or taken away. The people all headed home refreshed and pleasantly tired and more importantly: full of hope.
Sam tenderly kissed his sleeping daughter goodbye, ruffled Spice's fur as she snuggled closer to Sammie, and slowly walked to Bobby Joe's truck to begin his quest to find his beloved wife.
Gracie said a silent prayer as the truck drove out of sight.