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Musing with Cecil Buffington

Porterville

While it’s true that I attended Jefferson High school, I never considered myself a resident of Jefferson. I was from Porterville, Georgia. I loved that small community. It was about a mile and a half from the city of Jefferson. I was told that the name was derived from a man, Mr. Carl Porter, that owned a great deal of land on the right side of the Jefferson-Gainesville road, ( highway 129 ) as you entered Jefferson. In the early forties he built about ten houses along the highway and sold them for amounts of $5,000 to $11,000. I remember hearing my Uncle Fred Bennett talking about paying $6,000 for the property and house. It was about an acre of land and a block, four room frame house. My grandmother, uncles Fred, Monroe, Cicero and Robert Bennett lived in this small house until Fred married Latrelle Cody and moved out in the early fifties. In 1953, Uncle’s Fred and J.C. would build a large room onto the back of the house that became a kitchen. It was about this time that I was able to finally have a room to sleep in without a roommate.

My place of birth was the little white house in Porterville where I would live until I reached the age of twenty. I was delivered by Dr. J. T. Stovall, a well respected man that served the Jefferson community as a physician for over 20 years. He was the last doctor I recall that made house calls. Many times this kind and gifted individual would make his way to our home to treat my grandmother, uncles and me shortly after receiving word and later a call that we needed his assistance. I will never forget Dr. Stovall. He would leave a strong legacy in the Jefferson community.

One episode involving Dr. Stovall still stands out in my mind. Like most kids of the fifties era, a lot of misadventures occurred from youthful experiments and silliness. It was mid-May of 1955 when my best friend Johnny Pruitt, and I were smoking rabbit tobacco from home-made corn cob pipes. We had done this hundreds of times over the years without any complications arising from the practice. On this day I ate a banana sandwich for supper and it, combined somehow with the rabbit tobacco, to create the mother of all belly aches. For two days I threw up and moaned as I lay in bed. I can’t ever recall being as sick as I was at that time.

Finally, my grandmother called Dr. Stovall and he came to the house. Something as simple as Pepto-Bismol proved to be my wonder drug.

I told the doctor about the rabbit tobacco. I’ll never forget what he told me.

“Son, you put any kind of smoke into your body and it can be dangerous. You need to leave that stuff alone?”

You know, I don’t ever recall smoking anymore rabbit tobacco. I never had the urge to smoke anything and have never been a smoker to this day. I think the admonishment from Dr. Stovall was a major motivational factor in my reluctance to ever smoke tobacco of any kind. I, along with the entire community had a great deal of respect for this kind and very professional gentleman.

Throughout my life as a working adult and as a high school and college athlete, I received my share of stitches to various cuts and injuries. Anyone that knows me well is aware of a scar that runs from the middle of my nose, between my nose and mouth and under my upper lip. This cut occurred when I was two years old. I understand my Uncle Robert was making homemade ice cream in an old style, crank-type ice cream maker. When I was told to come and get some ice cream, I went running toward the bucket, fell and cut my lip on the hinged handle on the side of the ice cream maker. I was taken to Dr. Stovall’s home where he placed six stitches in my lip. I returned home and went to work on eating my share of that ice cream.

That scar remains visible too this day.

There were other doctors of my youth like Dr. Adams and later my lifelong family physician and friend ~ Dr. John Crenshaw. All played a part in keeping me going health-wise as my life moved toward adulthood.

Speaking of doctors, my grandmother was, in the words of Granny from the television series “The Beverly Hillbillies” somewhat of an M.D. The M.D. in her case stood for “mountain doctor.”

My grandmother was a very unique person. She had very little formal education. She had married Cicero Bennett at the age of 22 in 1913. There were six children over the next 20 years.

When any of the babies around Jefferson developed the “Thrash” ~ a scabby, sore mouthed condition that seemed prevalent during the fifties, the parents would bring the child to my grandmother for treatment. She kept some oak leaves in a plastic jar above the coal heater. She would get these leaves, rub them inside the babies’ mouth and utter some secret phrase that she claimed would cure the ailment. Later on she wanted to teach me the secret. She said a man can teach the healing method and divulge the secret words to a woman or a woman can disclose the secret to a man, but not a man to a man or woman to a woman. I told her I wasn’t interested in having that ability. She always claimed it was what she said as she was rubbing that leaf in that child’s mouth that created the cure. To me it was hocus pocus that I didn’t want the responsibility of dealing with.

Many times she would make cough medicine from wild cherries picked from a tree about one-hundred yards from the property of my aunt and uncle, Ray and Nell Williamson. I was the recipient of many “doses” of that medicine. I don’t know if it helped me or not. I always thought it did as a youngster. Perhaps that was part of the treatment. A positive attitude that I was going to get well quickly couldn’t have hurt. I guess I’ll never really know for sure now how effective that home-made medicine may have been.

Have you ever had a Vicks-salve poultice placed on your chest to help you breath when stricken with a bad cold or the flu? You can bet I have. Compliments of my in-home physician, Dr. Bennett, the M.D.

One of her most unbelievable “cures” involved my uncle Monroe. He had picked up a fragment or particle in his right eye that he couldn’t get out. The pain from that small particle was causing him some great distress.

My grandmother told him to get a flaxseed from a bag inside a kitchen pantry and place it into his eye. She said it would adhere to the particle in his eye and then just drop out of the eye.

I watched with astonishment as my uncle placed this seed into his eye. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone scream as loudly as Uncle Monroe as that flaxseed disappeared into his eyelid.

He screamed and actually rolled on the floor in agony.

I couldn’t help but laugh at what I was seeing.

Even my grandmother laughed as he ran around the room screaming and yelling.

Finally, Uncle Robert piled him into his 1953 Chevrolet and took him to Dr. Adams.

After removing the flaxseed, Dr. Adams, in some of the colorful language he was noted for, told my uncle, “I ought to leave the #*&#&*% thing in your eye after a foolish stunt like that. How can anyone be so #&*%# stupid as to deliberately place a large foreign object in their eye.” Dr. Adams was never one to mince words.

By now you may have guessed that the challenges of living during this "Golden Age" of my life ( birth through about 18 years old ) were without end. It was an interesting time and the life lessons I learned from that period of time remain strong in my mind to this very day.

Now some 55 years later, that little white house has been torn down. My little hometown village Porterville has mostly new inhabitants, with new cultures and interests. Virtually everyone mentioned in this reminisce has gone to their final reward. All may be gone, but they will never be forgotten by me and those that knew and loved them.

That’s the way it is with time. It just marches on ~ leaving only memories.

That’s probably the way it should be, but I sure do love those memories!

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