An Empty Stall
In our small town Saturday was always the day everyone headed to the main square, for all the small farmers brought their produce to sell. Even in the rain you could depend on them. They set up make shift tables of sorts. Some just left their items in the crate and boxes and others sold right off the tail gate of their trucks. Still there was an un-said and total right to certain spots. Those people had been in that spot every Saturday for thirty years or about and nobody ever challenged there territory that I know of.
There was old man Jackson, he had a small orchard so there was abundance of fresh picked oranges, peaches, lemons, apples and he had kept bee hives at the end of the grove. No one would have ever considered buying their golden honey from anyone else. Of course Mrs Jackson had a selection of home made pies that you had to get there real early or they would be gone. My personal favorite was her peach-pie.
Most just took pride in raising all their own vegetables, they didn't use chemicals for that would kill the pollinators that made the product grow. Just plain fertilizer from the barn yard was sufficient.
There was one small cart that had one of those special spots, although it was third from the very end. It was a woman that everyone just referred to as the Herb Lady. Her features showed Native American heritage, and no one seemed to know just really where she lived---some where in the woods down by the river---some thought.
When you would point to a plant, she would tell you what it was---for and how to use it but not the name of the plant. There were all the usual herbs and then there were herb plants that some might say just looked like---weeds.
There was Mullein, that the Catawba Indians used as a sweetened syrup from the boiled root, which they gave to their children for coughs.
There was Pleurisy root that the Natchez Indians boiled the roots and made a tea and used for pneumonia.
Many tribes used the Boneset plant for fever and colds and catnip was made into a tea for infant colic.
As you continued to point and admire these many plants that adorned her table she would inform you of the tribes that used each plant. The different tribes used different plants depending on the region that they lived in but they were for the same aliments.
Aspen: The Cree Indians used and infusion of the inner bark as a remedy for coughs.
Wild Cherry: The Ojibwa Indians prepared a tea of the bark of wild cherry for coughs and colds, while other tribes used the bark for diarrhea or for lung troubles.
White Pine: The inner bark was used by many tribes as a tea for colds.
Willow: Many tribes used the inner bark to reduce fever. The Pomo tribe boiled the inner root bark, then drank strong doses of the resulting tea to induce sweating in cases of chills and fever. In the south, the Natchez prepared their fever remedies from the bark of red willow.
It seemed that everyone in the town at one time or the other had secretlyrelied on the Herb Lady for some of their aliments. The old doctor that had been there and brought most of them into this world had retired and moved to Florida. Now one had to drive twenty-five miles to the city and wait to see the doctor.
Everyone hated to see fall arrive for now the farm fresh produce was now only in your cannin jars or freezer. Most of all you would miss that Saturday ritual at the town center. This year the fall season didn't seem to know what it wanted to do, one day it was very warm the next extremely cold. Many people were coming down with some sort of a virus and it was spreading rapidly through the area. It got to be very serious and just that morning it was reported that Mrs Jackson had died. The symptoms were all the same. It started with a cold like symptom which then quickly turned into pneumonia.
Each day it was reported that there were more people dying. Several children were among them. People were cautioned to stay in there homes and schools were closed. It seemed to be an epidemic that was now out of control.
It was a bitter cold morning when the phones were ringing through out the town. It seems that everyone had found a jar of some sort of liquid placed in front of their door. It was also no mystery of who had placed it there for everyone recognized the jars that the Herb Lady had used all these years at her stall to hold her powered herbs of tea's. The jars wear unique in the fact that they were not clear, it was like a bottle that had been left to the sun and taken on a color.
No one would come right out and admit that they would or had they consumed this gift of tea that was silently left at their door. Yet---was it just a coincidence that with-in a week every one was cured?
It was not until the next spring when the farm vendor's were all set up back in their usual spot, that they realized that the Herb Lady was not there. No one knew where to look for her, she just seemed to have disappeared as she had long ago---appeared.
Now! there is an empty stall---third space from the end and---will always be!