Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Series 14: MEDICAL – Line Fork Settlement
Anne Ruth Medcalf, Nurse, 1922-1923
Line Fork Settlement
Report to Miss Pettit 11 Feb 1922
TAGS: Anne Ruth Medcalf, Medcalf report to Miss Pettit 1922, Line Fork Settlement, Will Lewis, Dick Smith, Edith Canterbury, Olive Dame Campbell, Christmas, Laurie Hall, Bennett Hall, Jim Metcalf, midwife, home births, Red Cross, Bert Smith, witchcraft, Will Lewis, Lynch KY, Dr. Todd, obstetrics, x-rays, Anne Pavey, community
ANNE RUTH MEDCALF Report to Miss Pettit 11 Feb 1922
Nurse, Line Fork Settlement 1921-1924
Line Fork Settlement
Letcher County, Ky.
February 11, 1922
Thank you very much for the fine editorial on “Christmas” which you sent me for my old friend, Mr. Will Lewis. It pleased Jim a lot for he was glad to have more proof that December 25th is Christ’s birthday to flaunt before Dick Smith, who still contended that it is “the day we gained our independence.” I haven’t heard lately whether or not he was convinced that it is not.
I have written Mrs. Campbell telling her I am the nurse who came here through Edith Canterbury and asking for the dates of the Conference I want to go [to] very much, and, at this time, I am planning on it. Miss [Anne] Pavey, who is going to Asheville when she leaves here, is planning to join me in Knoxville at that time, so it will be doubly worthwhile. I hope my plans will work out.
Life on Line Fork I have been finding quite as absorbing and interesting as ever, since Christmas. There hasn’t been a great deal of serious illness, but there have been a lot of more or less indisposed folks and they have been calling for me to help them out and advise them. All of which I find gratifying despite the fact they do not always do the things I tell them they should. But they do pretty well at times, so I should be glad.
Laurie Hall, Bennet‘s wife, had her baby early in January. My kinsman (?), Jim Metcalf, was in attendance. I was there, too and such an experience! All the neighbor women were there besides for “the frolic” as Bert Smith called the occasion. But it was far from one, I thot. Laurie had a time of it, and, in my plea for ordinary cleanliness, I had one too! But Jim was amenable to a certain extent. He washed his hands for me in the antiseptic solution I prepared and donned the Red Cross gown over his blue overalls which I provided. And, he agreed to do for Laurie on the bed instead of having her sit in someone’s lap! All of which were concessions.
I was with them about thirty-six hours straight, so you can imagine all the things I heard. I felt a perfect alien when the talk dwelt on their methods for curing various diseases, charms, witchcraft. Did you know that Jim claims some witch powers? Never will I forget it all! I wish some of the obstetricians, who do all their work in well-regulated hospitals, could have a picture of Jim at work! … flowing mustache, dripping with “baccy”, black-rimmed fingernails, long lanky legs in dirty blue overalls and everything!
How they survive is beyond comprehension. It makes one a bit skeptical of the necessity of the great care we take —- the sort we think absolutely essential. But, no, even tho they do survive at the time they feel it sometime. However, it makes the argument against their methods hard. But poor little crippled Laurie bore the brunt of the lack of better ways! She had a bad time, sure enough, and she hasn’t yet gotten back to feeling fit. I did all that I could to make her more comfortable, however.
She has a fine baby boy. Melvin (I just missed having a namesake they tell me) is his name. And, Melvin has a new box bed! It was not ’till after much discussion as to the advantages of a single bed with a nice firm mattress, over the big feather one shared with the mother that he got it, however. She wasn’t a bit excited over having one for her baby at first. She only “lowed hit might be a sight handy in keering for a young ‘un,” till the pretty cretonne for covering the box came. Then she waxed a bit enthusiastic. And, when it was completed and
her offspring snugly tucked away in it she fairly beamed. He couldn’t stand it long tho’ and finally came forth with — “Wal, I bin livin’ eighty yars and I haint never seen a young ‘un in sech a fix afore. You haint a simin to keep the poor little critter in thar all night by hitself — are ye?” Whereupon I tried to tell him the whys and wherefores for the separate bed for the baby. But he only shook his head and muttered something about “… young ‘uns allers having lived afore ‘th ‘out sech things.” But he generously added: “I heerd tell of folks livin’ and larnin’ and I guess I be a doin’ hit now.”
Old Mr. Will Lewis had a catastrophe a while back. His tube came out, and he wasn’t aware of it, ’till hours afterwards when it came to me, a picture of distress. I worked over him two hours trying to get it back, but in the time it had been out the flesh had grown so that it was impossible without some slight surgical intervention. I did everything I dared do. He was perfectly comfortable and in good condition so I sent him in great haste over the mountain to be fixed up by the doctor. He returned the day after quite as happy as before. In fact, he has been getting much stouter than he was before his operation. He putters about the place and does most of the feeding [livestock].
So I was very surprised and alarmed when someone called me up in the middle of the night a week ago and said he was dying. I got up and was down there in no time. The entire family had assembled. But old Mr. Lewis didn’t mean to die. He was just having an attack of indigestion, and after a little hot water, and soda, and “tea” which Marthie insisted upon, he came around all right. The next morning he was up around the fire as usual, and now he is going around having a beautiful time. I saw him inspecting the sawmill yesterday. and he came up to me for his dressing this morning.
I had a call over on Leatherwood yesterday, the second I’ve had over that way. The first was in the dead of the night. they didn’t know that there was a nurse over this way before, but now the news has spread, when I got over there yesterday they had their sick babies and children assembled so I could look them over. And I had to make several calls besides. It was great.
I am ending up a very strenuous week. Monday, I rode Dixie all the way over to Lynch to see Dr. Todd. I stayed overnight with the Todds, and returned Tuesday, which was a very stormy day. But for all my pinched toes and fingers I wouldn’t have missed the trip over the mountain for anything. It was a glorious sight to see everything transformed by the snow. It was a veritable fairyland. Then my trip was well worthwhile. Dr. Todd is very anxious to help us out. Of course, he can’t do everything but he said he would go over anyone I would send to him, and if he felt that he could help them he would. And, I have confidence in his opinions.
He is a Hopkin’s man, and has had considerable training since being graduated. Then he has facilities there, — X-rays, laboratory, etc., so it’s worth a lot to have such a place so near. There are many folk in these parts, who couldn’t be dragged to Louisville for examinations or surgical treatment, but who would take a chance on a place so near to their home. In fact, about six women here, whom I am very anxious to be examined thoroughly, have promised to go to Lynch soon. They seem eager to go, really, and if the trip there will only give them an idea that pills and salves are not the only things by which real doctors get down to the bottom of things, then it will be worthwhile anyway.
A friend of mine sent me some narcissus bulbs at Christmas time. I started then in a bowl, about a week afterward, much to the interest of our visitors. They were a bit skeptical at first. They didn’t low they would blossom that way, but now they’re blossoming beautifully, much to their amazement and joy. And, the bulbs we planted along the side of the house are peeping out of the ground. The result I guess of the last two warm days.
This has gotten to be quite an epistle, but I am sure you will enjoy hearing about all of us along Line Fork, and forgive my rambling on.
[Anne Ruth Medcalf]
GALLERY: Anne Ruth Medcalf Report to Miss Pettit 11 Feb 1922
ANNE RUTH MEDCALF Staff – Biography