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The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Book 7
BY CHARLENE RADDON
Thalia Plunkett has loved Duncan Moon, known as Dinky, all her life. Now he’s in big trouble. Can Thalia help Duncan kick the booze threatening to kill him, and win his love? Or will he choose whiskey over her?
And who is the mysterious man watching Thalia?
Believe it or not, the Puritans believed in drinking. In fact, they brought more beer with them than water. Early Americans took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey for a lunchtime tipple, ale with supper and ended the day with a nightcap. Continuous imbibing clearly built up a tolerance. By 1830, consumption had peaked at 7 gallons per year per person.
By the late 19th Century, dipsomania, or alcoholism, was being treated as a disease. The first arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol was in 1897.
Physicians began to consider alcoholism a disease, but they had no real cure. There were facilities for the treatment of dipsomania, and if that failed, there were always insane asylums where people with disabilities of all sorts were put to get them out of the way.
In my new novel being released December 15, titled Thalia, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Book 7, my heroine, Thalia, goes to the town doctor for advice in trying to cure the man she loves of drinking. He tells her, “Alcohol consumption eats at your innards over a long period of time and brings about a long slow death. It grinds away a man’s liver and other organs. Those who recover from it are often plagued with liver and heart problems the rest of their lives.” He tells her of asylums back east where they treat dipsomania, but he doesn’t recommend them. “Horrible places they are,” he says.
But alcohol wasn’t the only addiction rampant in the nineteenth century. During this time, much of the food consumed by working-class families was adulterated by foreign substances, contaminated by chemicals, or befouled by animal and human excrement. By the 1840s home-baked bread had died out among the rural poor; in the small tenements of the urban masses, unequipped as these were with ovens, it never existed. The list of poisonous additives reads like the stock list of some mad and malevolent chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both hallucinogens) and copperas in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in Chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider; all were extensively used and accumulative in effect, resulting, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and often fatal food poisoning.
And adults weren’t the only ones imbibing these poisons. Most medicines, even for children, contained alcohol or opiates or both. Laudanum is a tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight (the equivalent of 1% morphine). Medical officers were convinced that one of the major causes of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, primarily opium, to quiet them. Laudanum was cheap enough, about the price of a pint of beer. Opium killed far more infants through starvation than overdose. Dr. Greenhow, investigating for the English Privy Council, noted how children ‘kept in a state of continued narcotism will be thereby disinclined for food, and be but imperfectly nourished.’
At mid-century at least ten proprietary brands of medicines containing opiates existed, with Godfrey’s Cordial, Steedman’s Powder, and the grandly named Atkinson’s Royal Infants Preservative among the most popular. Opium in pills and penny sticks was widely sold and opium-taking was described a way of life in places.
Morphine was treated like a new-fangled wonder drug. Injected with a hypodermic syringe, the medication relieved pain, asthma, headaches, alcoholics’ delirium tremens, gastrointestinal diseases and menstrual cramps. By the late 1800s, women made up more than 60 percent of opium addicts.
By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. The Civil War helped. The Union Army alone issued nearly 10 million opium pills to its soldiers, plus 2.8 million ounces of opium powders and tinctures. An unknown number of soldiers returned home addicted, or with war wounds that opium relieved. Opiates made up 15 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in Boston in 1888, according to a survey of the city’s drug stores.
Only around 1895, at the peak of the epidemic, did doctors begin to slow and reverse the overuse of opiates. Advances in medicine and public health played a role: acceptance of the germ theory of disease, vaccines, x-rays, and the debut of new pain relievers, such as aspirin in 1899. Better sanitation meant fewer patients contracting dysentery or other gastrointestinal diseases, then turning to opiates for their constipating and pain-relieving effects.
When she got back to the office and climbed the stairs, she found Dinky lying on the floor. Dumping her packages on the table she knelt beside him. “Dinky, what are you doing out here. Get back in bed.”
“I thought you left me.” He looked and sounded like a whiney little boy. “I thought you’d gone.”
“Come on, I’ll help you back to bed.”
“Will you stay with me?”
She gaped at him. “In your bed?”
His eyes widened, and his mouth hung open. “No. I’d never ask you to do that.”
“All right. Come on.”
She got him back in bed and returned to the kitchen to boil the beef bones for broth. She’d gotten some with bits of meat left on, knowing or at least hoping, he could handle a little substance.
“Thalia? You still here?”
She went to his doorway. “Yes, I’m here. I’m making some broth to help settle your stomach. You still feel sick?”
He shook his head. “I’m cold though.”
As if to demonstrate, his entire body shuddered. “Tremors,” she said. “Doc Spense warned me about them. Don’t worry. I’ll get you through this.”
“Warm me up, Topper.”
She fetched more quilts from a chest and piled them on. “I have to check on the broth now,” she said and left him alone.
When she returned, she found him throwing quilts onto the floor. “I’m hot. Why are there so many covers on me? Thalia? Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me. Who else would it be? Claramae?” The moment she said it, she recognized her mistake.
“Don’t say that name to me,” he yelled. “I don’t ever wanna hear that name again. That lying, cheating whore. I hope she rots in hell.”
“I know.” She went to his side and tried to comfort or at least calm him. “I understand. I’m sorry, Dinky. I won’t say it again and you won’t ever have to worry about her again. She’s gone, okay?”
“Gone? Who’s gone?”
Doc Spense had said he’d get confused, maybe even see things that weren’t there. He’d said to just go along with whatever Dinky said, within reason.
“No one, Dinky. Never mind. Just sleep.” On impulse, she began singing a lullaby her mother used to sing.
“Sleep, my baby, on my bosom,
Warm and cozy, it will prove,
Round thee mother’s arms are folding,
In her heart a mother’s love.”
His eyelids slid closed and she tiptoed from the room, still singing.
Charlene Raddon began writing nearly forty years ago. She never meant to be a writer. In college, she studied fine arts. But that was before she discovered romance novels, and before she woke up one morning after a dream so vivid she knew it belonged in a book. She got out an old typewriter and ever since, instead of painting pictures with paints and a brush, she does it with words. An Amazon bestselling author, Charlene was first published in 1994 by Kensington Books. Today, she’s an Indie author. She is also a book cover designer specializing in western historical covers.
Links to Charlene’s website, blog, books, etc.
Thanks, Charlene, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!