The Dales . . . at least our Dale family when I was growing up, rarely went to a doctor. It basically had to be an extreme emergency or a life or death situation. When my father passed away at age 66, he had NEVER been to a doctor until his second heart attack. No, he never even told anyone about his first heart attack. Until then, he had also never taken a prescription . . . or even an aspirin! When anyone in our family was sick or had suffered some minor injury, there were many "cures" and home remedies, evidently handed down from some CRAZY member of the Dale family.
For instance, if I had a severe cold, my mother would make me EAT Vicks Vaporub. She would get a large swab of the smelly stuff on her index finger and have me stick my tongue out. "Let it melt down your throat," she would insist.
"But Mom, it says not to be taken internally."
"I don't care, our landlady eats a barrel of that every winter, and it hasn't hurt her yet!"
A sore throat called for raw bacon to be placed on the affected area. Leg aches required Omega Oil and vigorous rubbing. Severe cuts that did not require stitches demanded that . . . believe it or not . . . turpentine be poured on the cuts in plentiful doses! These are just a few examples of the remedies. I could go on and on.
The one and only time that I can recall my parents taking me to a doctor was when I was about 10 years old and I had drunk water straight from a creek back in the woods. I developed a very high fever and was unconscious by midnight. At 2 o'clock in the morning, they rushed me to Dr. John Humphrey's office in Crawfordsville. The dedicated doctor stayed with me for several hours until I was no longer in danger. When my Dad got the bill a week later, it was for $8.00 . . . not bad for basically saving my life!
Dr. Ralph Otten was Darlington's most popular physician. He came here in 1936 and had previously been the chief bacteriologist at Philadelphia General Hospital. He was certainly a "unique" individual, to say the least, and his charge for a doctor visit was $2.00.
My only experience with Doc Otten was when he came to the school to administer physical exams to the boy's athletics teams. He did not charge the school anything, but he was given a free pass to all the basketball games. He sat at the desk in the coach's room . . . in shorts, with gum boots on, a sleeveless undershirt, stethoscope around his neck, an old straw hat tilted to the side, and his ever-present cigar dangling from his lip.
As we all stood there in line . . . only wearing our underwear, I started feeling a little bit nervous as to what could transpire during this so-called examination. I was not sure what the point was to "turn your head and cough" that Doc Otten was directing the boys before me to do in his usual gruff and gravelly voice. Before long, there I was staring him in the face. My time was up . . . my knees were shaking. The smell of thick cigar smoke was also starting to make me dizzy.
"What's your name?" Doc said as he looked down at some paperwork.
"Butch Dale," I replied in a rather sheepish voice.
"Are you Bill Dale's boy?" he replied.
"Oh, hell you're alright."
"THANKS!" I said as I tried to make a quick exit . . .
"Wait, where are you going?"
Oh, no. I knew I couldn't get out of this predicament that easy, but I asked, "What else do you need?"
Doc looked at me, "You wouldn't be interested in buying some ducks, would you?"
"Then how about a calf?"
"Well, OK, you can leave now."
That was my physical examination for the Darlington basketball team . . .

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.