First, you take a dead cat ?

First, you take a dead cat ? By Bob Karolevitz The subject this week is warts and how to get rid of them.

My trusty encyclopedia calls them a benign growth on the skin, and most of us � when we were kids � had lots of them on our fingers.

We got them from playing with toads, they told us.

Actually I got on this subject when I reread Mark Twain�s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the umpteenth time; and, as usual, I was titillated by Tom�s anti-wart conversation with Huckleberry Finn, �son of the town drunkard.�

Huck had a dead cat, which he traded �off �n a boy for a bladder he got down at the slaughterhouse� � and Tom wanted to know what a dead cat is good for.

�Cure warts with,� said Huckleberry.

Then there ensued a dialogue in which Tom avered that dipping your hand in spunk-water (rain water caught in a rotten stump) was something better than dead cats.

Of course, there was a ritual with it. After soaking your hand in the stump, you had to say:

�Barely-corn, Barley-corn, injun-meal shorts, Spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts.�

Then you had to walk away quick-like, just 11 steps with your eyes closed, turn around three times and go home without speaking to anybody.

It worked for Bob Tanner, Tom said, �and he was the wartiest guy in this town.�

Huck countered with �take your cat and go into the graveyard �long about midnight when somebody that was wicked has been buried.� A devil will come Huck explained. You heave your cat at him and say:

�Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I�m done with ye!�

That was psychotherapy at its loftiest, and apparently such superstitious procedures have achieved results � at least as far as some people are concerned.

For instance, milkweed sap has done the job occasionally. Just rub the juice on, and the warts will disappear, the believer admonishes.

The same is true for vinegar, castor oil, dandelion greens, potato slices and banana peels. All you have to do is practice positive thinking, and you�ll get rid of the unsightly things forever.

There are all kinds of granny remedies guaranteed to work. One of them is the bacon cure which has overtones of Huck Finn�s dead cat nostrum. To make it successful, you have to rub the greasy pork rind on the wart. Then when the moon comes out, you throw the bacon over your left shoulder.

Presto! The wart goes away!

` Or, as one person says, you can rub the warts with 20 pennies; and after you give the coins to a beggar, the blemishes will suddenly vanish.

Tom Sawyer had another trick, too. First he split a bean, rubbing blood from a wart on one half and burying the other in the dark of the moon � or some such thing. �Pretty soon off she comes,� he declares. The wart, that is.

Of course, all that hocus-pocus stuff give the medics fits. They know that warts are a viral infection, and it takes more than magic to make them go away.

On the other hand, if it works, don�t knock it. Besides that, you can get rid of a lot of dead cats that way.

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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