An Uncle's Lesson: Some Things 'Best Left Alone' In the summers of the 1960s, Lee Mottern often visited relatives in Elizabethton, Tenn. Before bed one night, he asked his Uncle Abraham about his nightly ritual of taking "smart medicine." And that's when things got interesting.
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An Uncle's Lesson: Some Things 'Best Left Alone'

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An Uncle's Lesson: Some Things 'Best Left Alone'

An Uncle's Lesson: Some Things 'Best Left Alone'

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Time now for StoryCorps. All across the country friends and loved ones record moments from their lives. Lee Mottern sat down with his girlfriend, Linda Eldredge to share childhood memories from Tennessee. Mottern had relatives in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and each summer during the 1960s, he and his cousin would visit them.

Mr. LEE MOTTERN: Well, Uncle Abraham and Aunt May Little, they had a big old house they lived in and you walk in there and it smells of good food and cigar smoke. But they couldn't have any children.

So we'd stay the nights, frequently, you know, in the summer and I noticed there's something Uncle Abraham would do at night before he went to bed. He'd go into the kitchen, and he'd get this big, ugly, brown bottle down from the highest cabinet - and get this spoon. And he would pour this liquid into the spoon, and take a big dose of it.

Now you gotta remember, I'm about seven years old.

Ms. LISA ELDREDGE: OK.

Mr. MOTTERN: So everything is a mystery.

Well he caught me looking at him one night. I said, what is that anyway, Uncle Abe? And he goes that's my smart medicine. I said can I smell it? And he goes, no, no, this is too powerful. It'd keep you awake all night.

So I said, well what does it taste like? Does it taste like cherries? He said it's better than that. I said come on Uncle Abe, let me have a little taste of it. He goes your Granny Ruth - I don't know what she would do when she found out I gave you some of this smart medicine. You think you can handle it? And I went, yeah.

And he says, OK, get a little spoon, you can't have much. So I'm standing there like a baby bird with my mouth open and he says all right, here it comes. And I swallowed it and it was awful.

Ms. ELDREDGE: Well, what was it?

Mr. MOTTERN: My Uncle Abraham would take a big old spoon of castor oil every night before he went to bed for therapeutic reasons.

I'll never forget that because in a way it did make me smarter because some things that look pretty good on the surface, they might be something best left alone.

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WERTHEIMER: Lee Mottern and his girlfriend Linda Eldredge in Waco, Texas. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Get the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org.

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