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Wart, wart, go away

We three men were taking a break from racquetball at the East Liverpool Y when the conversation naturally turned to warts.

“When I was a kid I had warts on the back of my hand,” said my friend Ron Dusendorf. “My grandmother cut a potato in half and rubbed it on the warts. Then she wrapped the potato in a rag and buried it in a secret place.”

“My grandmother did the same thing,” said my friend Jimmy Italiano, “except she made me pee on the warts first. Then she rubbed them with a potato, wrapped it in a rag and buried it in a secret place.”

“Did it work?” asked Ron.

“Yeah, it did.”

“It worked on mine, too. The warts went away,” Rod said.

You can see by this example that we have interesting and educational discussions when we are resting between racquetball games.

WHEN I GOT HOME I told Honey about our talk.

“Your mother believed you could buy someone’s warts,” she reminded me.

“Oh, yeah, she did, didn’t she? She also believed she had been reincarnated a couple of times, once as Cleopatra’s handmaiden and once as a girl going west in a covered wagon. The Indians killed her.”

One of Ol’ Food’s superstitions that I keep alive is never giving a knife to a friend, lest it cut your friendship. The person must pay you for it, customarily a penny.

But back to warts.

Thanks to the internet, a world of both modern medical information and superstitions about warts, and how to cure them, is at your fingertips with a simple Google search. I prefer the superstitions.

About buying a wart to make it go away – I’m pretty sure you don’t get the wart you buy.

Everyone knows that if you count your pennies you will lose them, and the same thing applies to warts. If someone asks what you are doing, simply say, “Counting my warts,” and the person will quietly go away, as will your warts.

Spitting on your wart every morning, or making faces in a mirror at midnight three nights in a row, or blowing on your wart nine times by the light of a full moon are all common remedies.

There is a long list of things you can rub on your warts to get rid of them: corn, apples, bacon, fish, coffee grounds, beans, dishrags. It is very important to follow instructions for what to do after rubbing a particular thing on your wart. Directions often involve burying the thing in a secret place and waiting for it to rot.

WITH CORN, you take a single kernel and rub it on your wart, then feed it to one of your neighbor’s chickens. When the chicken breaks out in warts, act surprised.

With beans, plant them, and when they sprout your wart will be gone.

Catch a small fish, rub it on your wart and throw it alive back into the pond. By the way, never fish there again.

Steal a used dishrag (or “worshrag,” as we say around here) from a neighbor’s kitchen. The neighbor can’t give it to you, you have to steal it. Rub the worshrag on the wart and throw it over your shoulder into a pond. I wouldn’t fish anymore in that pond, either.

If you are lucky when wart-stricken, you may encounter a funeral procession going by. Rub the wart and throw a stone after the hearse while chanting, “Wart, wart, follow the hearse.”

Tom Sawyer, in Mark Twain’s book of that name, said to take a dead cat to a graveyard where someone evil is buried. When the Devil himself arrives at midnight, throw the cat at the Devil while yelling, “Devil follow corpse, cat follow Devil, warts follow cat, I’m done with ye!”

Ah, the old ways are the best.

(Fred Miller’s book “Worshrag, Shark and Seed” is now available at the Fort Steuben gift shop in Steubenville. Other sites: Frank’s Pastries, Connie’s Corner Restaurant, Davis Bros. Pharmacies, Pottery City Antiques, Green Marble Coffee Shop, Giant Eagle Calcutta, the Museum of Ceramics and fredmilleratlarge.com.)

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