Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tennessee folklore -- chihuahuas cure asthma

photo by Tyke
Have you ever heard the myth that chihuahuas can cure asthma?   Asthma runs in my middle Tennessee family and sinus problems in my west Tennessee kin.  I used to visit my mother's cousins in rural Maury County.  They lived in the original cabin built when my family settled the area in the very early 1800's.  They were such a warm and welcoming family, and I used to love my brief visits there.

These particular cousins kept chihuahuas as pets.  They firmly believed that chihuahuas "take" asthma from asthma sufferers, thus leaving their owners well.  Since then, I have heard that this belief is or was common in Tennessee, as well as in Georgia and other areas.

I've long tried to trace how this belief came to Tennessee given that chihuahuas are not a native breed here.  I haven't been able to find out the exact origien.  If you know, please leave a comment!

In doing research,  I did find that a)  chihuahuas will often lie near or on places where people are hurting, and the warmth of their bodies may provide a sense of ease, b)  chihuahas, with their short hair, might be easier for some with allergies and asthma to tolerate than other pets, but this is not always so, c)  chihuahas do often make coughing or wheezing sounds which might lead to the mistaken belief that this is because the chihuha is taking the asthma upon itself and removing it from the person, and d) since asthma often goes into remission when a person enters their teens, it might be that people buy chihuahas for asthmatic children near the time when they might get better anyway and they coincidentally improve --at least for a time. 

Whatever the origin of the belief, my cousins' chihuahuas became beloved pets.  Perhaps because they were so well-loved, they were the calmest, sweetest chihuahuas I've ever met.

I know from experience that having a loyal, cuddly dog around you can be comforting when you are ill.  If you have asthma, though, I wouldn't recommend bringing a chihuahua into the home unless you have already tested it for a time and know that you do not get worse being around the dog.  Chihuahuas do not cure asthma, despite the myth.  In fact, they can make asthma worse if they cause an allergic reaction.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The bountiful table of the Maxwell House Hotel

In my upcoming novel, "By Streams of Water" (release date August 1, 2013), one of the main characters and her husband make a trip to the Maxwell House hotel in the 1870's.  Here is a recounting of that experience:

Edward had booked a suite for Kathleen in the fashionable Maxwell House hotel, which was at the corner of Church and Cherry Streets. Seeing the place in all of its new grandeur, she found it hard to think that it had so recently been a Union army barracks. It had housed Confederate prisoners, as well, a thought which made Kathleen shiver.
The front entrance, which was directly across from the Men's Quarter, was flanked by eight Corinthian columns and led into a magnificent rotunda. No decent woman wanted to be seen on Cherry Street these days, so the hotel had added a separate entrance for ladies. For that, Kathleen was grateful.
Once inside, there was so much to take in. The ladies entrance led to parlors and drawing rooms in such beautiful colors. There was a Dunham piano so that the women could have music while they chatted or while they promenaded around the mezzanine.
The hotel boasted steam heat, gas lighting, and a bath on every floor. In the main lobby, there were cabinetry of fine mahogany, brass fixtures, gilded mirrors, and breathtaking chandeliers. There were men's parlors in addition to the women's, and Kathleen thought these sitting areas were all lovely. She was not so enamored with the billiard rooms and bars...
...Once they were seated at the table, she couldn't make up her mind what to eat. Edward obviously delighted in going over the choices with her. The bounty reminded her of feasts that she had taken for granted before the war.
She looked up at Edward through fluttered lashes. “Oh, let's start with the turtle soup. No, let's have the gumbo.”
Edward nodded. “We can have the trout in anchovy sauce for the fish course.”
For the entrees, the couple decided on filets of beef, braised with mushrooms and Salmi of Prairie Grouse, with Spanish olives. They added fresh asparagus in butter, succotash, stewed tomatoes, and baked sweet potatoes. They followed that with yellow coconut drops and coffee.
“Oh, it was all so wonderful. I'm too full to move,” said Kathleen.
“I've never known you to be too full to dance.” Edward stood up and extended his arm to her. The couple made their way to the ballroom, where they joined in a waltz. Edward looked down at her tenderly. Then, he whispered into her ear, “I've missed twirling you about in my arms.”
“I've missed this, too,” she whispered."

 copyright Elizabeth A. Mundie 2013