“Don’t cross your eyes like that, they might get stuck and you will be cross-eyed the rest of your life.” If you are as old as I am, you’ve heard it, haven’t you? Our parents and grandparents warned us, we listened, and the advice worked. I don’t know one soul that got their eyes stuck, even temporarily, much less for a lifetime.
Getting your eyes stuck was a fear, but perhaps not even in the top 10 of our concerns. For example, it wasn’t even close to being careful of snakes. I know some snakes can be dangerous, but I only knew a few people who got bitten. With me, it was yellow jackets and wasps and stubbed toes. I once got stung by a bumblebee in the middle of my back. Man, it hurt. But Grandma never told me to be careful and watch for bumblebees -- it was always snakes. The Garden of Eden motif may have affected her thinking.
Speaking of the Garden of Eden, what about tithing? We were taught it was very important -- in fact, mandatory. We had those little white envelopes, and 10 percent of our boiled peanut money was inserted and given. I’ve always thought we were fortunate. What if 11.2735 percent had been called for? Never would have figured it out, would we? Apparently, most folks have trouble calculating the 10 percent. In my family, I would put tithing in my top 10 concerns.
Lockjaw was talked about a considerable amount. It and ground itch. About the same amount of concern was given to both.
“Be careful that you don’t step on a nail, you might get lockjaw. Don’t walk in the dew, you will get the ground itch.”
I’m proud to say I never knew anyone to have lockjaw. And, I never heard anyone admit to having the ground itch. Ringworms, yes. Athlete’s foot, yes. Jock itch, yes. Ground itch, no. I’m not saying they didn’t have it, but I never heard anyone admit to it.
Speaking of admitting to things, regularity has become a major concern. Or is the concern irregularity? Lots of talk about it on TV. When we were young, castor oil was about the only answer. Now, a whole industry has grown up around it. And I can tell it is a major concern. Folks don’t come up to you and say, “I have irregularity.” But, you can just tell by how so many of them act. Good thing that there is so much help available. Too bad more of them, and especially store clerks and fast food employees, don’t take advantage of what is available. It might help their attitudes.
White teeth. That’s become extremely important. It seems to have replaced lockjaw as a major concern. And efforts seem to be working. Have you noticed that so many of the young men and women have such white teeth? I believe that the effort to whiten teeth is meeting with more success than the regularity effort.
But, back to an earlier in time top 10 concern. You couldn’t go swimming right after eating. You had to wait a couple of hours. I think the fear was that you might get cramps and drown. This was serious. Not quite up to the concerns about snakes. After all, the Bible-based snake fear trumped the American Red Cross swimming concerns.
And while on the swimming subject, what about the correlation between public swimming pools and polio? Perry used to have a concrete swimming pool down by the National Guard Armory, which is now The Perry Arts Center. Vaguely, I seem to recall that polio concerns caused it to be closed. Was this in the early ‘50s? In any event, this was definitely a top 10 concern.
We’ve had and have a lot to be worried about. And, I haven’t even mentioned red bugs. Now you want to talk about something that will make you miserable. Especially with where they chose to embed themselves. This was a major concern when I was a boy, and if these chiggers get on you, will be a major concern with you today. No medicine, including Chigger Rid, seems to do any good. If we could just get the regularity folks working on this, perhaps they could come up with something. I would like to remove this as one of my major concerns. Red bugs, that is.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.