Two patients were waiting outside his door when he opened it. He steered the blacksmith, who seemed the steadier on his feet of the two, not to mention the one who wouldn’t get ruffled about waiting, to a chair and took the sheriff into the back where he’d set up his exam table and instruments.
The sheriff hoisted his considerable bulk up onto the table. “My belly’s been aching considerable.”
Joshua noted the sheriff’s flushed color and straining suspenders. “And just what have you been putting into that belly of late?”
The sheriff shrugged sheepishly. “You know Ma’s pork chops and creamed corn, and her molasses pie. You had vittles like that waiting at home, you’d eat too much of ‘em, I reckon.”
“Well, roll up your left sleeve.” Joshua picked up the lancet and gave the sheriff the pan to hold. He didn’t hold with bleeding patients for many ailments, but this seemed like one of the times it might help. And most of his patients believed it would, which could make a difference in itself.
When the pan held a sufficient quantity of blood, he took it to throw away later and bandaged the arm. “Take it easy on that pie, now.” He grinned. “You can bring some by my place, to remove temptation.”
The sheriff snorted as he slid off the table and made his way toward the front of the office, swaying a bit as he went. Joshua followed him to make sure he stayed on his feet, then looked around for the blacksmith. But the chair was empty. Just then, his fugitive patient hurried back in. “Sorry, doc. Had to run to the outhouse, like I’ve been doing every few minutes for two days now. Can you fix me up?”
Joshua stroked his chin. “I just might have something that’ll help you.” He fetched a glass jar half full of powder, powder he ground up from the plant that Cherokee medicine man had shown him. The blacksmith watched, his forehead wrinkled and eyebrows lowered.
“What in tarnation is that?”
Joshua laughed. “Darned if I know what it’s called, except in Indian talk. But it works better than anything I can say in English.”
The blacksmith was shaking his big head. Joshua held up a hand, palm out. “Now before you go blustering at me, you should know those folks have some pretty good remedies. Living the way they do, they notice things. Tell me, how many people around here have got milk sickness lately?”
The blacksmith just looked confused. Joshua suppressed a sigh. “I haven’t had a patient with milk sickness since I came to town. And you know why? It’s because a doctor who listened to Indians did some listening when a Shawnee woman told him —” It had actually been a lady doctor, Doctor Anna, but Joshua didn’t think the blacksmith could swallow that idea when just the idea of Indian medicine was sticking in his craw. “This woman told him that milk sickness came from drinking milk or eating meat from an animal that fed on white snakeroot. And that doctor told people, who told people, and now most farmers know to keep their stock away from white snakeroot. Now do you want me to give you something that’ll help you, or would you rather move into the outhouse and try to shoe horses there?”
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