I remember when
he (Bob) told me about the time his Mom and Dad were with
Chief Eagle Eye's Medicine Show. The Chief was a real,
full-blooded Indian from around Cherokee, North Carolina and
when he appeared onstage to make his pitch, he dressed like
an Indian Chief, complete with headdress, buckskin clothes
Bob said that he didn't know why the Chief was named Eagle
Eye because he couldn't see ten feet in front of himself as
a result of smoking too many peace pipes and drinking fire
water. He said that the old Chief made his own Elixir and
snake oil. He and his squaws would mix the concoctions in a
For the spring tonic, or Elixir, they would first put in
five gallons of water, then a quarter of an ounce of oil of
anise, to give it a kind of licorice flavor and a couple
packs of egg dye to provide an orange color and then, five
pounds of Epsom salts.
The Chief would say, "Do you feel dizzy and nauseated in the
morning, feel weak and run down by noon, no energy? If you
do, my friends what you need is a bottle of my Elixir. It is
good for colds, runny noses, headaches and that tired, run
down feeling. My Elixir is also an excellent spring tonic. I
guarantee that it will put pep in your step and width in
your stride or I will refund your money. Be sure to shake
the bottle well before you take it."
Bob said, "After taking three tablespoons full at bedtime,
early the next morning you had better put pep in your step
and width in your shoes on the way to the outhouse, or you
would nasty your britches before you got there."
As for the Chiefs snake oil, he would take a couple of
gallons of kerosene, add some dry powdered mustard and some
eucalyptus oil and bottle it in small bottles. He would then
attach a label with a picture of a rattlesnake and the words
He used to say
"Back on the reservation, my people never suffered from
corns, callouses, bunions or ingrown toenails because every
time they washed their feet they put a few drops of snake
oil on their feet and rubbed it in. Is there anybody out
there that has a corn that is bothering them?"
Several of the marks would raise their hands. The Chief
would pick one out and have him come up to the stage and sit
down in a chair. Then he would say "Are you from around
these parts?" and the mark would answer, "Yep, I live up in
Possum Holler, " or some other place around town. Then the
Chief would ask his name. After he told his name, the Chief
would ask him which toe was hurting and the mark would start
to take off his shoe. The Chief would stop him and say,
"That won't be necessary, leave your shoes on."
The mark would point to the toe with the corn on it and the
Chief would bend down and put a few drops of his snake oil
on the shoe over where the corn was.
Now, owing to the fact that back then, the upper part of the
shoes that people wore were leather, the kerosene was
quickly absorbed into the leather, softening it and taking
pressure off the corn and numbed it to a certain degree. In
a minute or so, the pain eased off.
The Chief would then tell the crowd as he held up the small
bottle of snake oil, "Thousands of people have tried my
snake oil and paid five dollars a bottle for it, but today,
just to get a few of you people to try it, I'm going to have
my wife and daughter pass a limited amount of bottles out at
only two dollars and fifty cents each. That's half price.
There will be a ten minute intermission before the next show
begins. In the meantime, you can get candy apples, popcorn,
cotton candy, orange juice, hot dogs or have your picture
taken. 'You never know how you look until you get your
picture took.' You can get three photos for a quarter at our
photo booth next door to the hot dog stand."
Bob recalled that back then, there were hundreds of medicine
shows on the road who peddled everything from corn medicine
to hair growing shampoos. The folks in the small towns and
communities that didn't have a theater welcomed them with
open arms because it was the only form of entertainment that
To be Continued