bowels

Death from peculiar cause … or ‘They did what with what?’

In one of her letters, Grandma had included a newspaper clipping about her grandfather’s “peculiar” death. Naturally, it’s bowel-related. I don’t know that the cause of his death is nearly as peculiar as the failed treatment. Two things to consider from this story: 1) It took three doctors to devise the “novel” treatment approach (is that somewhat impressive or freakishly scary?) and 2), on the list of 101 things to do with a bicycle tire air pump, this should place no better than No. 118:

Pulaski County Democrat, Thursday, Sept. 19, 1907

Death From Peculiar Cause

The death of George Guild, the Medaryville liveryman, occurred Tuesday morning from a somewhat unusual cause. Last Thursday, just after sliding to the ground from a load of hay, he complained a little of straining something in his bowels. The pain grew more severe through that night, and his family summoned Dr. Linton Friday morning. A day later, he called Dr. Clayton of Monon in consultation, and Sunday evening, he called Dr. George Thompson of Winamac. At that time, the man was very low. He had been suffering intense pain, no action of the bowels had been obtained since the injury and he was nearly pulseless. The physicians agreed a telescoping of the bowel was the trouble, but the man was so low, an operation would mean sure death from the anesthetic. They adopted a somewhat novel treatment – a tube 2 feet long and air pressure from a bicycle tire pump – as the only resort that could give relief. It proved successful – they secured proper action of the bowels and, with it, ease for the patient. But he had sunk so low that exhaustion coupled with a heart weakness that had affected him for years resulted in his death. A post-mortem examination disclosed the exact accuracy of the diagnosis: The treatment referred to had straightened the tangled bowel, but its discoloration and other marks showed where it had been locked. Mr. Guild was 62.

I suppose there are more-undignified ways to go other than with a bicycle tire air pump up your derriere. Nothing leaps to mind, but I suppose …

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‘Who garped in the pot?’

My family spends an inordinate amount of time talking about their “bowels.” Always have and always will. Whenever a group of the Indiana kinsfolk gathers, the discussion invariably heads in that direction … usually sooner than later. All it takes is for someone to blurt, “Oh, what a time I’ve had with my bowels!” and suddenly it’s an Activia commercial on steroids. These days, the bowel-fixated standard-bearers are my parents and my Uncle Bernie and Aunt Mae. These are all well-educated people … sitting around talking about their bowels for hours at a time. It’s grotesquely fascinating. But what’s truly scary is that as I get older, I’m beginning to feel I could add something meaningful to the discussion.

If an outsider or two happens into one of these conversations either by choice (their fault) or not (still their fault), it helps to have a working knowledge of the lingo before wading into the conversational cesspool. For example, “pot” is not something you smoke: It’s a universal term for any sort of toilet bowl fixture or a bathroom itself, and you can use it as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb … you name it: “He went to the pot.” “I hav’ta go pot.” “All they had were them porta-potty pots.” A “winder” is an unproductive fart (usually, but not always, a good thing). A “crack” is a loud fart with more treble than bass. “The shoots” is projectile diarrhea. And although “bowels” technically refers to the plumbing south of the stomach, my family uses the word loosely to refer to any (dys)function of the digestive system. So “garp” – a favored word for “puke” or “vomit” – is a bowel issue. Once, at a family gathering, I actually heard the phrase, “All right, who garped in the pot?!!” announced loudly. Thank you, Aunt Mae.

As I mentioned, the family’s current generations are doing a fine job of keeping the bowel-discussion “movement” going. Although they’ve had moments of pure genius – “garped in the pot” was a real pole-raiser – the undisputed potty-mouth champion was Grandma. Here are a few of her many bowel updates. In a previous post, I noted that Grandma’s letters often contained material unsuitable for the dinner table. Well, the following falls firmly into that category – consider yourselves warned. I guess I also should remind you that Grandma was a large woman … she didn’t move very fast. That might help explain a couple of these … maybe.

“Hello Iowa! Mammy want to write so much and take up all your extra time reading, but you know me – I’m loose on both ends.”

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 “I had that pork from Jean’s last night, and I think that’s the darn stuff that gives me the shoots. I woke up this morning with such a headache and after I got up, I started with loose bowels and what a mess. I didn’t make it to the bathroom once in time, and now I’ve got such a backache from cleaning it up.”

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“I got my stomach in a heck of a mess. My mouth is so sore from garping, I can’t wear my lowers.”

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“Yesterday was my weigh-in day and I lost 6 pounds this time. I told the doctor that wouldn’t of happened if I hadn’t been like a goose for over a week. The doctor said it was a virus, but where in the heck did I pick up a bug like that and why don’t anyone catch it from me? It’s been 10 days and I still can’t trust a winder.”

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“I had to get medicine yesterday for my bowels. I’ve had a shitting good time. What a mess. Ran clear down in my shoes.”

Like I said … maybe.