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James R. Stout

Green and Purple Pills

            In 1961 a record came out that struck a funny bone with my family. It was called, “Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills”. It was the first success for singer-songwriter Ray Stevens. The record was all about these wonder pills that could cure “all your ills”. My father especially thought it was funny because he had been doing the “gut-gut-goon” thing for years. I’m not sure if he made it up or had heard it in a song or movie from the 40’s, but the song was a reminder of his humor. It’s really a version of the old “snake oil” bit. My mother remembered a man who had a wagon and two mules that came around about every 3 months. He sold pots and pans, cooking utensils, knives, tools, and medicine. This was long before the government passed laws regulating the sale of medicines. He had his own concoction that was supposed to ease rheumatism and other such conditions.

            The song wasn’t a huge hit, but it did reach the Top 40. It mentioned all the ills that the elixir would cure. A nagging cough, whizzing, stuffy nose, neuralgia, arthritis, and even water on the knee could be cured by taking those green and purple pills. The song became a household joke for us. If one of us got sick with something, then it would be suggested we take some of those pills. I have fond memories of that song and hearing my father laugh when we would play the record.

            Sitting here thinking about that song I couldn’t help thinking of something a little more serious and a current event. The way I see it, the government (both parties are complicit) is like a snake oil salesman. They’ll fix all our problems if we vote them into office. Healthcare, border control, freedom of this or that, and the Robin Hoodism that is so prevalent today are all examples. What you have to do is research the candidates and make an informed decision as to which ones are the most unreliable snake oil salesmen. Here’s a secret. The ones who promise the most are the snakiest of all! We have to use our brains about this. Does what candidate “A” says he can do make sense? What are the consequences? Despite what many of them say, nothing is free. It costs someone. Too often the someone turns out to be us.

            Perhaps most importantly we should consider what made America the best nation in the history of the world. America was formed and grew into a unique and wonderful nation on certain fundamental beliefs. Nobody owes you anything. If you want to achieve a status or goal, then it’s up to you. Hard work, perseverance, and honesty will always win the day. Yes, you may fail in an attempt. But that doesn’t mean someone cheated you or had an unfair advantage over you. Things just happen. How many farmers of the 19th century went west and despite their best efforts failed to make a living on their farm? They didn’t cry and say, “It’s the fault of that farmer down the road who is doing so well.” No, they picked themselves up and tried again somewhere else. Sometimes progress gets in our way. We can choose to weep and moan about how progress is running us out of business, or we can adapt. Stagecoaches were a main form of transportation for centuries. Early crude stagecoaches go back to the 13th century in England. Here in America they had improved designs and became the way for Americans wanting to travel great distances. But in about 1830 steam locomotives were coming into use. It took several decades, but eventually stagecoaches were supplanted by railroads. However, about the time the last horse drawn stagecoach was used a new way of travel was opening up. Motorized buses came into their own by the 1930’s. They are still used today, but not to the extent that they once were. The 50’s and 60’s were their heyday. What changed? The Eisenhower Interstate Highway Act made it possible for people to drive their own automobiles across the nation. Oh, there were hardy souls who had been doing it on the muddy tracks called roads, but it didn’t become a realistic form of travel until the roads were improved. Progress was the name of the game. Wells Fargo Stagecoaches were a major player in that industry. They began in 1852 as an express company. But the leaders of the company saw the changes coming and branched out into banking. By 1905 the two operations were separated. In short, they adapted, and they thrived.

            Back on point. This is a big election year. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. You most likely wouldn’t rely on my opinion anyway. What I will tell you is how to vote. I know that we all have prejudices based on our own personal history. But try not to let those prejudices color your outlook. If a party or candidate says something, then use the old smell test. Is what they are selling simply snake oil? Take a whiff and find out. Maybe you don’t like a candidate as a person, but they may have the best interests of America and its citizens at heart. Don’t buy into lies and especially utopian schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, then most likely it really is too good to be true. Look at the backtrail of what the candidate is saying. Has it been tried before many times and never worked? What makes you think it will now? Voting isn’t merely a right. It’s also a responsibility. I know that’s become a dirty word these days, but it fits nicely here. Vote responsibly, informed, and with the best interests of all of us in mind. Just because a candidate makes a promise that you like doesn’t mean that he can make it happen, that it will be what he says it will be, or that it is a moral promise. Don’t forget to get out your “gut-gut-goon” tester and make sure you’re not buying snake oil or green and purple pills.  

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