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A Dram of Spring Tonic

In this month's installment, Marideth Sisco talks about finding the energy to spring into spring.

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Hasn't this been the most beautiful spring. There's a remarkably silly Ozarks saying in regard to the season, that goes:Spring has sprung, The grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers…is.Well, you have to admit the weather has been splendid. It's a good thing, too, because time is at a premium. So many things to do, and never time enough to accommodate them. I'm up to my ears in garden seeds and not enough places to plant them, too many places to be and most of them at the same time, well, you know how it is. After this last week, I was so give out that I got to wondering about the general state of my constitution. Not the document, but how I'm doing. After all, I'm in my late 60s, and although I'm not worn out yet, I'm definitely worn. The last time someone asked me how I was, I told them I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in.But the truth is, I get tired, and it's aggravating. Tired is for winter, when a person can hole up and get some serious reading done. But spring is for, well, Springing, like springing into action. But instead, I find myself reciting that old poem that my grandmother used to quote, with the line that goes, "My get up and go has got up and gone."Well, that's not going to fix anything. So I went out yesterday and wandered around the yard, trying to work up some enthusiasm, and I did get a little excited for a minute, seeing all the shoots of pokeweed starting to pop up everywhere. Surely you've noticed. Maybe you've already cooked up a mess. I like mine simmered in two waters, with a dash of vinegar and maybe a dab of butter or bacon fat. It's one of the necessary rites of spring. A tonic, if you will. Hmm, I thought. Maybe that would shake me out of my slough of despond. It was when I was trudging back to the house to get a colander and a paring knife to get me some of those poke shoots that it hit me. Poke wasn't what I needed. What I needed was some sassafras. You want to talk tonics, sassafras is nothing short of an Ozarks miracle drug. Now it's not good for everything. It's no use at all on a snakebite. But for everything from a case of the doldrums to easing a heavy heart, it's just the ticket. Now I know about that bunch of researchers that fed a mouse about a gallon of sassafras tea once and decided from his reaction that it was probably poison. But who's gonna drink a gallon of anything? Tonics are taken small, and measured by the dram. It's a ritual we could do in our sleep, if we're old enough to remember it. Here's what you do. Go out and find a young Sassafras sapling in an unsprayed fencerow. You'll know it. It's the one with the leaves that look like mittens. Poke around in the soil underneath it until you find some good-size roots, as thick as a pencil or bigger. You'll know them, too. They're bright orange. With a hoe or a mattock, chop out about a foot-long section or two. Take it in and scrub it well until all the dirt and little root hairs are gone. Chop about a four-inch section of it in little pieces and put it in a cup. Peel the rest and put the root and peelings away in a saucer, in a dark place, to dry. Pour boiling water into the cup, let it steep for a few minutes and sweeten with sugar or honey. Now stop. Admire the warm, delicate color of the roots and the tea they have made, just for you. Breathe in the scent. Isn't it elegant, so wild and mysterious. Have a sip. When you heard grandma talking about spring tonics, you didn't picture this, did you.Now sit back for a little while and think about all the beauty and mystery of the natural Ozarks, the world that created this wonderful gift of the earth. Feel yourself sink into your own place in things. Finish the cup before it cools. See. It's a beautiful day in the Ozarks, isn't it.Ok, break's over. Get busy. Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, and it's time to mow it. And while you're at it, and feeling so good after your cup of spring tonic, pass along that feeling, won't you. Drop a coin or two in the cup of this poor little radio station that works so hard every day of the year to keep you up on all these things like sassafras. This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Thanks for listening.