August 14, 2009

Dog Days…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:02 pm


“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”

—Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

I don’t know what it is. In the Dog Days of summer, everything droops. Energy, spirits, and sometimes inspiration. Most years, you can blame it on the heat. Not so much, this year, except for the last week, maybe. It’s been cool, month after month. So it’s not the heat. The grumpy blahs of summer’s end, and fall’s imminent arrival. Followed then by the incessant cold of winter. Approaching like some dark distant brooding cloud.

As Labor Day looms, and the official end of summer, I look back, as always, with mild astonishment. Reflect on all the great grand things I’d planned in the glorious dawn of spring, and how those plans stack up to the harsh reality of late summer. As always, the eager optimism of those heady hopeful days fell flat somewhere along the way. Or just quietly drifted away in the busyness of living. And the things left undone will remain so always, at least in the time frame I had envisioned.

In this Dog Day season, there were quite a few.

I haven’t hiked. Not much, anyway. Seems like it rained about every Sunday I planned a trip. I went on a couple of short excursions. But not to my favorite spot, Tacquon Glen in the southern end. That beautiful remote rugged trail, once so private, so serene and calming, has been discovered by the masses. On any given weekend day, a dozen or two cars line the road. Not to mention a string of buggies. The trail is clogged with hikers.

Which is fine. The more people know of the place, the more enjoyment will be gleaned from it. But sadly, at least a percentage of the newcomers are slovenly boors who leave littered evidence of their passing. The trail is strewn with trash. The Sunday News even ran an article on the subject a month or so ago. Tacquon Glen has been “discovered.” The masses congregate and march. So for me it’s off the list. Time for new conquests. Maybe I can add that task to next spring’s plans.

I haven’t grilled, but once or twice. Which is a horror and much to my eternal shame. Somehow, it just didn’t seem important. This summer, I’ve been watching my calorie intake a bit more closely. So I don’t eat much food. Excluding Superfood, I spend less than $20 a week on groceries at Amelia’s Discount Foods. Which is basically nothing. A granola bar for breakfast. Salad for lunch. A sandwich for supper, usually made with delicious homemade bread from my Amish friends. So there hasn’t been any particular reason to do a lot of grilling.

Truth be told, I’ve just not had much urge to fire up the charcoal since my good friend Allan passed away in May. He used to slip out regularly of a summer Sunday evening, and I’d grill sausages. Which we devoured with great gusto. Now he’s gone. The grill gathers dust. Seems almost sacrilegious, but maybe it’s time to throw another party.

I haven’t fished. Not that I’ve ever fished much around this area. Not like I used to as a child stalking pike and bass with a cheap spinning rod and reel in the gravel pits of rural Aylmer. But once or twice a summer, even here, I used to dig out the old fly rod and head over to the Conestoga to snag a few crappies or sunfish. Not this year.

I haven’t camped. Because that wasn’t on my list last spring or any other. I don’t camp. Never have, since I was about ten years old, when my father returned from somewhere, maybe the Sale Barn, with an old canvas contraption he’d picked up for a few dollars.

It was a vast, two-room tent. I don’t remember much about it, except that we lugged it out and disentangled the great lump of canvas and set it up in the yard on the west side of our old machinery shed. At dusk, my brothers and I dragged out piles and piles of bedding and blankets and pillows. The interior reeked with the almost overwhelming odor of dank canvas. Didn’t deter us a whit, though. We stretched out in our snug nests and talked late into the night. The harsh cries of nighthawks and hooting owls echoed close around us. Finally slipping off to sleep, we woke to birds screeching in the early morning light. The old tent swayed and dipped with heavy dew. When we slapped the walls, great torrents of moisture cascaded down.

It was an adventure then, something different and grand and great. But somehow I lost the wonder of it all along the way. Today, I class campers in about the same category as bicyclists. Avid, driven, focused on their craft and methods. Willing to pursue their passion at enormous cost in time and treasure. At least the campers aren’t as annoying as the bikers, unless you get stuck behind some creeping travel trailer on some impassible stretch of road. Which can make one mutter things that shouldn’t ought’a be said.

So I didn’t get a lot accomplished this summer. Not like I’d planned. But I did a whole lot of nothing. And some hanging out with friends. And some traveling. And some writing. Guess that’ll about have to do.

It’s Dog Days in blogland too. Last week’s post brought some private mutterings from a couple of readers. They must have thought the B&W Ointment was a farce. That I just made it all up to see if I could fool you. One wag mildly accused me of quackery and suggested I hang around people who hold less dire perspectives. Another message suggested I take a break from writing for a few weeks, as I’m obviously under a lot of stress. After considering that suggestion, I concluded it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. To take a breather once in awhile, maybe have a guest blogger fill in. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, my good friend and well known author Jerry Eicher linked the post to his publisher’s site because he felt it would be of interest to his readers. So it goes. Some see one thing and some see another, all after reading the exact same words. For the record, B&W is not a farce. All I wrote about it was true. I highly recommend it.

It’s Dog Days for the local cops. A few weeks ago one night in the little burg of Columbia, over on the west end, a homeowner noticed an intruder in his van outside the house. Outraged, the homeowner went out and confronted the thug with a baseball bat. One blow, and the bad guy was writhing on the ground with a bloody nose. The cops arrived and congratulated the homeowner and hauled the burglar off to jail. At least that’s what they should have done, and would have done in a saner time, and maybe in a saner season of the year. But no. The homeowner was arrested and now faces felony charges for using excessive force. The DA prissily sniffed that the robber might have been armed and could have injured the homeowner.

I could rage and seethe for a few paragraphs. But I won’t. Been there, done that. It’s just sheer insanity. No wonder the common man increasingly disrespects and despises the law. And the cops. One outraged citizen wrote in a letter to the local newspaper that he would never spend another dime in Columbia. Ditto that for me. Not that I ever have spent a dime there. But I won’t now for sure.

It’s Dog Days too, for an arrogant class of people who suddenly are facing uprisings in their districts during what should have been a lazy summer recess. Our imperial senators and congressmen. That’s one bright spot in an otherwise abysmal economic landscape, the hordes of common citizens who are flocking to town hall meetings to protest a government takeover of their health care decisions. When you think all is lost, sometimes it’s not. The groundswell of protest is a beautiful thing to see. Viva the Resistance!

And this year, you can sense too, a pulsing undercurrent of unease. Not fear, just a realization that we are somewhere we haven’t been before. It’s been a weird summer. Even here in Lancaster County. Where hundreds of Amish work crews and countless little shop businesses scramble for scraps. We’re not used to hard times here. It’s been the land of milk and honey for so long. Now those streams are running dry.

There’s always work to be had, of course, but competition remains intense. Crews that in a normal year would be scheduled out three months struggle for work in the next two weeks. Perhaps this is a “dire perspective,” but maybe we should all make like ants and save and store sufficient supplies for a long tough winter. I’m just saying, is all.

But one bright star gleams in the bleak night skies. To comfort us. Football. Oh, yeah baby. Preseason pro games kicked off this week. We count down the four weeks to the real thing. And college, too. I can’t wait.

The Eagles are in classic and delicious disarray, as usual. Decimated by injuries, and one of their star thugs picked up for possession of pot. As a libertarian, and to be fair, I stridently defend his right to smoke anything he wants. But neither the law, nor the league sees it that way. So in the meantime, it’s trouble for the Eagles, in which I take huge delight. McNabb ain’t getting the team anywhere again this year. Maybe Michael Vick will. He’s back and signed with the Eagles after two years in federal prison for dog fighting. I actually kind of like the guy now, because everyone else hates him. Under-dog (no pun intended) and all. I hope he performs well, even for the Eagles. But they’re not going anywhere.

Sadly, neither are the Jets. I’m furious at management for firing coach Eric Mangini after his Bret Favre induced losing season last year. He was out of a job for all of two days, before the Browns wisely snapped him up. Now the Jets have an untested rookie coach and not a whole lot else going for them. So it’s going to be a long hard slog again. Go Cardinals. I’m still heartbroken over your Super Bowl loss. Get the thing won this time.

August 7, 2009

The River of Jordan

Category: News — Ira @ 6:41 pm


The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.
Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.

— Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus

Seems like every Amish community has one. Its local expert on natural cures. The man or woman who will prescribe concoctions of herbs and mixtures of who knows what for just about any ailment.

The Amish are particularly gullible to natural fads. They believe what they are told by scurrilous quacks. Are maddeningly susceptible to any claims published in a book or magazine. If it’s in print, it must be true. It never seems to cross anyone’s mind that lies can be printed as well as told. Used to be one could identify the latest scams by scanning the pages of The Budget. Always good-sized box ads proclaiming eternal youth, joint health, snake oil guaranteeing a brand new heart, ointments for every imaginable sprain or bruise. The Budget is probably still a valid barometer.

Not that I don’t believe in natural treatments and cures. With age, I am increasingly hostile to all pharmaceuticals. I’ll take prescription drugs only in severe emergencies. And then get off them as soon as possible. I’ve taken a daily regimen of vitamins for about ten years now. For the last five, I’ve faithfully drunk my Superfood mixture twice a day. Great stuff. I wouldn’t do without it.

But I don’t buy all the wild claims made by herbal manufacturers. Anyone can claim anything. I research all herbs and vitamins before using them. It’s easy to do, on the internet. I also ask the opinions of those I trust, those who harbor knowledge far advanced to mine.

My father, in his later years, became quite involved with natural foods. Every year or two, it seemed, he wrote another extensive expose on his latest discovery. In the 90s, it was fiber. Then bread baked from fresh ground whole wheat kernels. Then COQ10, a miracle vitamin for the heart. And those are only a few I can remember, of the many. It got so that when he launched into his latest magical discovery, I would just kind of let it flow in one ear and roll out the other.

So it was with extreme skepticism that I greeted his latest “discovery” a few years back. My parents still lived in Bloomfield. I think it was in January, 2007, when Ellen and I made our final trip home as a married couple. We were there a few days. It was winter, ice was everywhere, the roads were slicker than snot.

When we arrived, Dad was gimping about the house, busy as always, firing the wood stove and pounding away at his manual typewriter. He and Mom greeted us cheerfully. He paused from his work and sat on his rocker, arms folded, to visit awhile. It didn’t take long.

“Have you ever heard of John Keim?” He asked, rocking vigorously, glancing at me sideways, as he tends to do.

“Nope, can’t say I have,” I answered.

“He’s an Amish naturalist. He lives in Ohio,” Dad said.

Oh, boy, here we go already, I thought to myself. “Oh, is that right?” I grunted.

Oblivious, Dad was just getting warmed up. In the next half hour, I learned far more than I ever cared to know about a man named John Keim.

He was a man, Dad claimed, who had invented a natural ointment that healed burns. And wounds. But mostly burns. The Amish are particularly interested in burn treat-ment. They get burned more than average because some child or adult is always pouring white gas into a kerosene lamp, it seems, and poof, a split second later, an explosion and skin is peeling off from third degree burns. Or that old classic, pouring gasoline on an open fire. That’s probably caused more severe burns than anything else in the world.

John Keim named his concoction B&W Ointment. For Burns and Wounds. The product is entirely natural. A mixture of various herbs, with a base of raw honey. In recent years, he traveled around to Amish communities, holding meetings, and teaching others how to apply B&W treatment to severely burned victims. And, Dad claimed, the ointment actually causes natural skin to regrow, even where there had been the worst burns, third degree. Something modern medicine cannot do. Burn doctors do painful skin grafts, because they can’t make burned skin grow again.

After a burn accident, the victim is slathered with the B&W over the burned area, then the ointment is covered with burdock leaves. Then everything wrapped in gauze. New treatments are applied each day. In seven days or less, new skin is growing. Rarely, if ever, do any scars remain.

I was dubious. But I listened. It could be true, I reckoned. It all sounded pretty simple to me. Like an “Amish” story. Lots of fantastic claims, but short on facts. Not that I doubted the power of natural remedies. But a concoction that would heal burns and grow new skin? If true, the medical profession would have to pay attention.

Dad had a vision to publicize the B&W regimen in his monthly news magazine, “Plain Interests.” Also personal testimonies. The plan, he said, was to have an appointed person in each Amish settlement, a person trained by John Keim. When there was a burn accident, that person would be summoned to come and apply the treatment.

And as my father rocked back and forth and talked incessantly about this latest “discovery,” I sensed that this was more than his usual health kick. That he was excited. And firmly convinced of the quality and claims of this product. He is not a stupid man. I decided to keep my eyes open, to see for myself if the B&W Ointment was all it was cracked up to be.

And so I did, after we returned home. Read the occasional account in Plain Interests and The Budget. Stories of how someone, usually a child, was badly burned. How the B&W treatment was applied.

From testimony after testimony, I’ve concluded the stuff does work. Exactly as Dad had claimed. Dozens of successful treatment cases have been meticulously recorded by John Keim and others, including Mark Stoll of Aylmer. They have taught others. In many Amish communities today, burn victims are immediately treated with B&W ointment. And, except in two cases, I think, they have been completely healed. The two cases involved infants or very young children who died from their burns.

Recently, a family in Aylmer was not allowed to use B&W on their badly burned little girl. The doctor, who had previously allowed it at his hospital, flatly refused and instead did painful skin grafts on the child’s burned leg. After the girl was finally released to return home, the parents fled with her to Mexico. There, they somehow convinced the extremely dubious and slightly horrified Mexican doctors to remove the skin graft. They applied B&W, and the wound was soon covered with new natural skin.

Completely healed. Something modern medicine cannot do. Just think about that for a moment. Let it soak in.

Because that’s really the bottom line. Whatever valid criticisms might surface, and there may be some, that central fact cannot be refuted. A simple Amish man with no formal education has developed a natural remedy that outperforms all the known burn treatments ever devised by modern medicine. It flat out boggles the mind.

And it’s not a secret. The Amish freely share their knowledge with anyone who cares to inquire. In certain few hospitals scattered about (Kansas City and London, Ontario and maybe one or two others), they even allow the Amish to come in and apply the B&W treatment to their own members who were burned. The doctors witness it. They see the results. They know it works. And yet, it has caused no stir, no shock waves in the medical world.

Why would a person supposedly devoted to healing ignore such a simple solution? Suppress a remedy that costs almost nothing and could heal thousands who writhe in constant pain? Several reasons, probably. There have been no controlled studies of B&W. Until that happens, it will be viewed as a quack cure. I did find one critical analysis on the web. And there’s always peer pressure. Unwillingness to risk stepping outside established boundaries. And deep suspicion of anything outside mainstream thought and teaching.

It all reminds me of the Old Testament story of Naaman, the Syrian captain. He was told to dip himself in the Jordan River to cure his leprosy. But that was too simple. He expected more fanfare, a bit of recognition of who he was. Some acknowledgment of his office. You’ve got to be kidding, he thought to himself. Here I travel all the way to this desolate country and this hick prophet tells me to go dip in a dirty river. I’ve got the best doctors in the world. And they can’t heal me. Who does this guy think he is? He was storming off in a huff until his servants calmed him and somehow convinced him to consider Elisha’s very simple directions. He relented and returned. And dipped himself seven times in the River of Jordan. Only then was he healed.

The comparison may be a bit of a stretch. But the simplicity of the remedies is similar. And the bull-headed resistance of the powers that be. There is one huge distinction. The doctors who ignore B&W do so to the detriment not of themselves, but of their patients. Contrary to their sworn duty to heal.

I’m not against doctors. They are callously and relentlessly demonized as the Obama administration muscles to pass into law the abomination of universal “health care.” Most doctors work hard and do the best they know, the best they can. Not to mention the long years and endless hours they spent on their educations. All I’m saying is that they should examine the readily available evidence and consider the implications of natural treatment for burn victims. Would that there were one, or even a few, who might dare to shed the shackles of the State and reject all government funded programs. And open private clinics that would include the option of natural remedies.

And then there’s always the drug companies. Vast conglomerates who will commit any act to protect their billions in research investment. Thousands of burn victims can writhe in agony as their wounds are wire-brushed. No way that an unlearned Amish-man and his natural formula will ever be allowed to jeopardize their precious profit.

Not that I have anything against profit or against the drug companies’ right to pursue it. But when their minions run crying to the government to shut down competition, and outlaw natural treatments, that is beyond despicable.

We are, I think, entering the dawn of a dark age in our civilization. We will see and experience hitherto unimaginable things. Terrible things that no one alive has seen or experienced before. An age of upheaval and fire and blood. When government intrusion will dictate every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave. When the elderly will be assisted in their passage to the afterlife because of lack of “affordable” care. When natural treatments will be outlawed and people who persist in providing such treatment will be prosecuted, imprisoned, and forced underground into the black market. An age when the less you have to do with any governmental programs, the better off you will be. And the longer you will live.

In such a time, it would behoove all of us to step into the “River of Jordan.” To be aware of simple remedies like B&W, as well as a host of other natural products. To know how to use them. Where they come from. And how to get more. Not only for our own benefit. But also for those around us.

Those who refuse to prepare with available knowledge and plentiful resources will have little recourse when the dark times come. And even less excuse.