Anna Maria Island, November 13, 1986

Grandpa George and the bone felon

By Gib Bergquist

   One Cracker tale I enjoy telling concerns the great-grandfather of one of my boyhood friends.
   Grandpa George homesteaded a large tract of land near the present town of Mulberry. He drifted down from Georgia with his clan around 1880. He was a rough and tough man who, with his wife, Granny Ida, their six sons and four daughters, raised cattle on an open range and did a little farming.
   One day he woke up with a “bone felon” in his right index finger. While this term is not widely used in modern medicine, it describes an infection at the end of a finger or toe. It usually occurs near the nail and is very painful.
   Grampa George suffered through the first day with the help of a little corn whisky, but the turpentine he was dipping his felon in didn’t seem to be helping. He suffered all through the night, and by the next morning, the tip of his finger had enlarged to twice its normal size. Each heartbeat sent a throbbing, excruciating pain pulsing through his finger — and the homemade pain killer was no longer effective.
   The nearest doctor was fourteen miles away by horseback at the county seat in Bartow.
   Now Grandma Ida knew that the felon had to be lanced before her George could get better, or worse yet, before gangrene set-in. I’d better explain that in Grandpa George’s household, and in Grandpa George’s day, womenfolk were little more than full-time servants and childbearers. They did not even sit at the table to eat until after the menfolk had eaten. In view of the above, Granny Ida knew that her husband wouldn’t let her near his felon . . . much less lance it.
   With much moaning and groaning, Grandpa George took refuge on the back porch of their log home. A perfect picture of misery, he leaned on the pump shelf with the elbow of his healthy arm. The one good hand cradled his brow. His throbbing hand lay outstretched on the shelf.
   All you farm folk will recall that the pump shelf is a waist-high shelf built around the pitcher pump for convenience in pumping a basin or bucket of water.
   Concealing a wooden mallet, Granny Ida quietly slipped up to the pump shelf. With one swift blow she smashed the end of his infected digit — effectively bursting the felon.
   Grandpa George’s ear-piercing bloodcurdling “painter” (panther) scream echoed through the piney woods.
   Howling with pain, and near delirious from the corn whisky pain-killer, Grandpa George furiously went for his shotgun. Granny Ida took off for the cornfield where she took refuge for the next several hours — playing cat-and-mouse with Grandpa George among the tall corn rows.
   By afternoon, Grandpa George had sobered up and his anger had subsided. Miraculously, his pain was gone. All was forgiven and Granny was allowed to return to the house in time to bandage his finger and set the biscuits to rise before supper.
   Her only remark was, “a man’s woman gotta do what she gotta do.”


From Cracker's Crumbs, 1995 Gib Bergquist

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