"Poor Manuel," said Bill. "He's got it worse than he's ever had it."
"Well, he ain't the only one," Jim declared. "I don't know if you have noticed or not, but four and five times a year, for a week or two at a time, everybody on the place gets galded."
Leon nodded, and so did John H. But I had been a cowboy all my life, and I still didn't know what they were talking about. Surely they didn't mean gelded! "What are you talking about? What's Manuel got so bad? What does everybody get?"
Jim turned on me, almost snarling in his contemptuous fury. "The way you walk? Don't tell me you ain't got it!"
I bit my tongue. There was a reason for the way I had been walking the last few days, and I wasn't sure the subject was socially acceptable. I was raw from well up my back to well up my front, with splashes of surging agony down the inside of both legs. I didn't want to talk about it! So I changed the subject. "What does "galded" mean?"
"I think it is the humidity," John H. muttered angrily. "It makes you sweat more."
The humidity? My mind went blank. Bill took pity on me. "Galded is being chafed between the legs, and higher up, so bad you can't even stand to lay down on your belly because it changes the position of things on the other side of you."
"The closest thing to it is being scalded and hung out on an ant hill," Jim vowed.
"It is the humidity!" John H. declared fervently. "The sweat, and the salt, and the friction ---- OHHH!"
Manuel crept closer to us, sometimes walking sideways, and sometimes just standing still and groaning. He had it bad!
"You know what I do for it?" John H. demanded.
All of us wheeled to face him. He nodded, and went on to explain. "I can feel it coming on. So I quit on the spot and run home to put on a pair of my wife's bloomers. And if I've caught it too late, I put on two pair. Women's panties aren't made like men's shorts. They are a lot smoother, with less friction when you slide from side to side or twist around to look behind you."
"I wouldn't be caught dead in my wife's panties!" Bill spoke for all of us. His secret cure out, John H. hung his head in shame, and we ignored him.
"Just what DO you do?" Leon asked Bill.
Bill blushed scarlet and stumbled around for his tongue like it was a black brahma bull in a dark boxcar. Then he seemed to sense there was no use trying to pretend HE never got galded, and went on, inchingly. "It's a MAN'S problem. I use a MAN'S solution."
Even Manuel waited with bated breath for Bill to go on.
"I pour whiskey on it," he explained.
We stared at him.
"I slop it on there thick, and fast. I.W. Harper is the best. It gives you about 60 seconds of relief before the fire hits! After that, there's no turning back, not until the cure is over with."
There was a long silence, then Jim said: "I was only man enough to try that one time. I done it with rubbing alcohol."
He shook his head ruefully as he remembered the way it went down. "I was galded bad, worst I ever been. And I got to thinking about how alcohol cools off insect bites, you know? especially if there is a little breeze brushing against your skin? I was hurting so bad I didn't care if I had married her right out of the convent; I peeled my clothes off right in front of Mary and told her to bring me a whole bottle of the stuff.
"She stood there blushing, saying I was crazy if I was going to try that, but I didn't care. I needed some relief. So I throwed that whole bottle on me where it would do the most good.
"Fire? I never had so much fire on me in my life. All I could think about was needing a breeze. I throwed myself back on the bed and screamed at Mary: BLOW IT! BLOW IT!"
It was a few minutes before we got our faces straight enough for the conversation to continue. Then Manuel said: "Bill, I'm taking off a few days. I can't take this."
"You might try deodorant like I use," said Leon. "Spray it on, real light, then spend the night naked with your legs open for the air. The air will cure anything if you leave a wound open long enough."
Everyone nodded in agreement, except Jim. He spoke up once more. "Air is good.
"But I've found the perfect cure, after I gave up on alcohol."
I wheeled and listened sharply. Jim pointed at the milk barn. "LeRoy has a big square can in there. It is green, with little roses all over it. The name on it is BAG BALM, and it is a salve LeRoy puts on chafed teats. It makes me feel better in just minutes, and it starts healing me good within an hour. When I slop on some more just before heading for bed, I am cured by in the morning. Like Leon said, I sleep naked for the air to get at the galded parts. I've been using it for YEARS now; Rose's BAG BALM, works!"
"I'm going to try some," Manuel decided. He edged towards the barn. "If it will cure a cow's hide, you know it will cure mine."
When Manuel came out just minutes later he was almost able to grin. "Man, that does feel better."
Leon went in next to test things out. Then, looking sheepish, in went Jim. I waited about ten minutes after Jim got back, then I went in and got the can from LeRoy. It was just an old can, with roses on top and BAG BALM on the side in big block letters. All the other letters were rubbed off down to the metal. I went in the bathroom and gingerly slopped the salve on heavy. Oh, the relief felt so good!
I put the can up, and went out the opposite door I'd come in. Just as soon as I got out I heard the other door open, and turned back. There was Bill, looking furtively behind him. Then he grabbed the can of BAG BALM up and HE hurried for the bathroom! I didn't figure Bill wanted any of us to know that even a MAN gave I.W. Harper a rest every once in a while, so I never told this on him, until now.
The relief lasted for over an hour. Right after unsaddling my horse that evening I went in and dosed myself up again with BAG BALM. Manuel was there ahead of me, and he'd been there twice already in between times, That can was getting Low.
"You know, this stuff is good," Manuel declared. "I don't think I could have lived through this day without it."
Jim got some more too. If Leon did, I didn't see him, nor Bill either for that matter. That night I slept naked, with the fan blowing right on me. And the next morning I could walk in a straight line for the first time in a week.
But, I wasn't taking no chances, I was determined to dose myself up with BAG BALM before I ever even tried to meet that saddle face to face. Leon was the first in line, grinning from ear to ear like he'd struck gold, then Manuel, then Jim. By the time I got there, that big can of BAG BALM was completely empty. I was awfully disappointed; Furthermore, I was desperate. Now that I knew BAG BALM would cure my problem I was NOT going to leave home without it.
With the empty can in hand I went looking for LeRoy. He had his empty pipe in one hand, and a milker in the other, dreaming off into the distance like the contented Holstein he was through milking. Then he glanced at me. "Out again?"
"I'll get you some more here in just a second."
Relief flooded over me. "I just knew you were out and wouldn't have no more for a month!"
LeRoy denied that with a shake of his head. "Not the way Jim uses it. At the first sign of a gald, he heads for my barn!"
I followed him around to the storeroom so I could see where LeRoy was hiding the stuff. Sure enough, it was hidden. He moved the mastitis medicine over, the row of Plasticote Wound Protector aside, and brought down a huge jar of Vaseline that was in his way. Only, that huge jar had not been in his way.
He took the lid off of both containers and filled up Rose's can of BAG BALM with Vaseline. "You been filling that can up out of there a long time?" I asked casually.
"Years," LeRoy replied. "Years and years and years.
"In fact," he went on dreamily. "I guess I started it back when I first went to work for Bill, twenty eight years ago."
Click HERE to read the short essay, NURTURE THE FAMILY by Earl H. Roberts.
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