Robert Charles Howard
Medicine Wagon - Poem by Robert Charles Howard
I’d jump at the chance to ride shotgun
on Henry’s medicine wagon
rolling from city to village
hawking 'Stickin’ Salve' and 'Oil of Gladness'.
We’d ride into Elmira’s County Fair
and set up over by the lake.
I’d fix Diamond a pail of oats
and pour her a bucket of water.
while great, great grandpa
dons his Union coat and cap
and arranges potions on the shelves.
Henry’s voice would cut the air
like a megaphone
and people would gather close -
lured by an old soldier's
hypnotic banter of miracle cures -
and perilous Civil War battles.
Then he’d swear on his mother’s Lumbago
that 'Stickin’ Salve' works just as well
as the lead and powder
he’d fired at Cedar Mountain.
The folks would shake with mirth
each time the old man bellowed,
“I’m Henry Howard from Bunker Hill -
Never worked and never will.'
Women would tug their husband's sleeves
and they’d bring me pennies and dimes.
After dusk we’d tally the coins
and latch down the wagon for the night.
At sunrise I'd wipe his brow -
to ease him gently back
from the thunder of enemy shells
still firing in his restless sleep.
We'd cook up some bacon and biscuits
then hitch old Diamond to the wagon
and head south through the rolling hills
along the Tioga valley.
We’d breathe in the fresh country air
and tip our hats to the farmers.
If Henry would come to tap my shoulder
some promising morning in spring
and whisper 'the wagon's hitched outside, '
I’d go in a Tioga minute.
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