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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Florence Dillahunt, May 31, 2001. Interview K-0580. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Various medical treatments and "talking fire"

Dillahunt describes how her mother used various home remedies, such as boiling a bull frog for whooping cough, to cure the family's various ailments. Additionally, she explains that when medical conditions were of a more serious nature, the family could visit a doctor in Grifton, North Carolina, which is what happened when her mother had a burst artery in her head. Ironically, it was not the doctor who cured her mother, but rather she was healed by a member of the family who could "talk fire," which involved the recitation of certain biblical verses.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Florence Dillahunt, May 31, 2001. Interview K-0580. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LEDA HARTMAN:
So what would you do if you needed help? Like say, during harvest time or if someone was sick or something? Could you do for yourselves? Or would other people come and help you?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Well, if anybody got sick or something like that, usually the girls, as far as I know, we never, Mama would always have different things that she would doctor us with. She had her own little medicine.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did she make her own medicine?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Like if you had the whooping cough or something like that, she'd go out and get a bullfrog and boil it. We would drink the broth from it. That was good for the whooping cough.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did it work?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes, it worked.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It did.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes. It worked.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did it taste like?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Well, it taste all right. We drank it. If you had whooping cough, she'd boil a frog. So you drank that water out of it. Sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What were some of her other medicines?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
When we had the measles, I don't know what Mama done for that. She had meal she rubbed us in. Corn starch, or something [like] that, she rubbed on us.
BETTY HOWES:
Corn meal, I believe.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Corn meal. I believe it was corn meal.
LEDA HARTMAN:
On your chest?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes, wherever the bumps was. They itched real bad.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's interesting.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And if someone else, like in the community, needed some help or something, would you all be free to go to help them?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes, my Mama, she would be free to go help them. I know my mother got sick. I was old enough to remember. She had an artery bursted in her head. And she bled a whole weekߞquarts of blood at a time. My daddy would take her into Grifton to a doctor named Dr. Tucker. He packed her nose with cotton, but the blood was running so freely, she would have had to pour the cotton out because it started coming out her mouth. And Daddy took her to the hospital and they done the same thing there. They packed her nose with cotton and they couldn't do nothing for her to stop her from bleeding. So one Saturday night she said she dreamed that the lord showed her a man who could stop her from bleeding. And she woke up that Sunday morning and she told Daddy that the lord had showed her a man. And she described the man to Daddy. And he said, he said that ain't nobody but a cousin of his. He said he had always heard that he could stop blood or talk the fire if somebody got burned. Daddy got up and put his pants on and went and got him. And when he walked on the doorstep, Mama's blood went away to water and she didn't bleed no more. Sure didn't. And she lived for quite a few years - a long time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
After that. Howߞ?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
A long time. She lived to get sixty-eight years old and I guess that happened when she was in her fortiesߞwhen that artery bursted in her head.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What wasߞ?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
The doctor said if it hadn't have burst, she probably would have had a stroke. But instead, the artery bursted and the doctors couldn't stop her from bleeding. And she didn't die.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was this cousin like? That he could help like that.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Oh, he was just an ordinary man. But at that time, like in that day, people said they could readߞ. They had a certain verse in the Bible that they could read, that would stop blood or it would stop, talk to fire, or get the fire from a person if he got burned. It worked.