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Remember When Bacon Was Actually Good for Us?

A new report suggests bacon can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, but a smattering of Texas folk remedies once used the meat as a integral ingredient.

Today, the World Health Organization dropped a bombshellon bacon lovers. The organization revealed the results of its years-long study, which suggests processed meats increase the likelihood of colorectal cancer. Sure, it’s not exactly a huge surprise – studies on processed meats were found to increase the risk of diabetes in 2013, and a 2012 study found eating too much meat increased the overall risk of early death by 20 percent.

But, in a less learned time of Texas’ history, bacon was considered a cure-all for all sorts of maladies.

Noted UT luminary J. Frank Dobie attempted to get some of these on the record in the Texas Folklore Society’s 1930 book “Man, Bird and Beast.”

Contributor and folklorist Frost Woodhull collated the lion’s share of the bacon-centric remedies in his “Ranch Remedios.” Woodhull suggested that drinking lard was one of the best cures for rattlesnake bites, and bacon itself could stave off “lampers” – a condition in which a horse’s gums overgrow its teeth, making it difficult to feed.

Turns out, according to one Laredo woman quoted in Woodhull’s collection of remedies, bacon could also ward off stray cats:

Credit Portal to Texas History

More practically, Woodhull detailed, bacon could also be used as a staple in veterinary treatment of livestock:

  • Saddle Sores – “Spread strong bacon grease all over the sore; it will heal up and the hair will grow over it.”
  • Screw Worms – “Feed a dog rancid bacon and screw worms will drop out. Now in hogs it don’t make any difference in what portion of his anatomy the screw worms are located, if you feed him a chunk of salt pork or a piece of old rancid bacon the worms will drop out and the wound will heal.”

According to Woodhull, one of bacon's most reliable uses was for the treatment of the “creeps” – a disease in which drought-affected cattle exhibit “a rather stealthy gait as though [they] were trying to slip up on something.” The cure to Woodhull was obvious: cut off a cow’s horns (if applicable), force-feed it bacon, cut off its tail, saw its hooves to the quick and mix its hay with cottonseed meal.

Bacon remedies were also applicable to humans; specifically, for boils and splinters: 

  • Boils – “tie a strip of bacon fat over the boil or the head of the splinter.”
  • Bunions – “Tie a piece of fat salt pork on the bunion, putting a fresh piece on every night for a week.”

Medicinal bacon use wasn’t just a Texas thing, however. Some Oklahomans also looked to the curative properties of porcine. As Walter R. Smith notes, many a Northwestern Oklahoman also used a bacon-dependent wart cure. But, unlike the Texan cure, it required some thievery to take full effect:

If warts are rubbed with a bacon rind that has been stolen and the bacon rind hid under a stone, the warts will disappear when the whole performance has been forgotten. Similar to this is the method of removing warts by rubbing them with the foot of a chicken that has been stolen. 

Looking for more folk remedies? Check out "Man, Bird and Beast" on the Portal to Texas History. If you've got any other folk remedies — bacon-dependent or not — let us know in the comments.

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