have often wondered where the big R with the little x mark used on medical prescriptions
originated. An old 1949 Coronet Magazine (remember those?) offered an explanation.
It seems early Roman "druggists" evolved from early day tribal medicine
men and began concocting certain ingredients for relief from maladies. They called
these mixtures "recipes" like a chef would create and record in a cook book..
The letter R in the Roman alphabet means "to take." So we have a recipe the druggist
mixed for us to take. Now, at the time medicine was crude and uncertain so to
aid in the cure offered, the druggist made the little cross on the leg of the
R to remind the patient to pray for recovery from the malady. Take the recipe
The symbol is still in vogue today, maybe more so than ever.
All medicinal advertisements present a paragraph touting the good, and several
pages of fine print warning of the bad. So, we now should "take our recipe and
pray the recipe doesn't kill us."
my collections of antique oddities I acquired a small cast-iron pot with two spouts
opposite each other looking like a teapot with two spouts. It had a lid at one
time and a wire bail for carrying. The spouts contain wicks to light, the cast-iron
pot is heavy, hard to tip over and definitely not a kitchen or railroad utensil.
An oil-field magazine recently featured the item in an article titled
"The Yellow Dog Lantern." It was patented in 1870 stating, "for illuminating out
of doors especially derricks and places in the oil field where explosions are
The lantern burns fresh crude oil showing a yellow glow instead
of a flame thus making it somewhat safer around explosive gasses. The Yellow Dog
name comes from workers who used the device stating, "the two spouts glowing in
the night resemble a dog's yellow eyes. The price was listed in equipment catalogs
as $1.50 each in 1884.
once bought a bucket of old tools at a farm auction. One item
was a large keylike item with big ears, threads on the other end and was galvanized
to prevent rust. The item was very familiar to me but I could not place the use.
I knew I had seen it before on some kind of machine. I added it to my display
board of "whatsits" and carried it to tool shows for two years. The key seemed
familiar to everyone but no one could name its use.
at an antique farm machinery show near Perryton
a tall elderly woman wearing the traditional attire of the Mennonite religion
stood looking at my display board. When I pointed out the key, she said, "Young
man, I've worn out two or three of those keys in my life."
What was it?
It was the adjusting key on top of a clothes wringer opening or closing the rubber
rollers that wrung out the wash water from clothes. Sure, I could see it plain
as day. But, by itself, mounted on a board, it just didn't compute.
"It's All Trew" January 27, 2008 Column
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