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once upon a time in the west
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These widespread practices in the Old West demonstrate how very wild the times were

Have you ever wondered what life in the Old West could be like? Then you can forget the clean water and soap and say goodbye to proper medical care.

And if the idea of a shared toothbrush turns you off, that’s a shame. And if you think you know how dire living conditions were in the days of the Old West, you are still far from it.

Terrifying toilets

Indoor plumbing is a relatively modern luxury. For those who lived in the Old West, the facilities were rudimentary at best, and they were usually outside.

Most of the inhabitants had to be content with small constructions, which were little more than huts erected on pits dug in the ground. For convenience, they were not far from the houses. And although there were ways to try and hide the bad smell, hordes of flies were buzzing around. Black widows were also prowling, ready to bite.

Sharing the meal

As far as the art of the table is concerned, we will have to wait a little longer. Hygiene at the table was virtually non-existent in the days of the Wild West. Everyone who sat down to eat together shared everything, really everything. Anyone could use what you had. When traveling with the herd, the cowboys were followed by a “chuck wagon” and the cook prepared food for everyone. Their diet consisted mainly of cured meat, kidney beans and coffee with flour and water cookies.

On long journeys with the cattle, it was difficult to carry a lot of food or utensils. Under these conditions the food taken was often dry and little varied and we avoided as much as possible to load unnecessarily. During meals, people shared the same cups, the same plates and the same cutlery. But that’s not all. They also didn’t seem to bother to wash kitchen utensils between meals, either. This habit probably contributed a lot to the spread of diseases of all kinds during this time. Just thinking about it makes us hungry.

Anyone want to brush their teeth?

As you may have guessed, dental hygiene was not a top priority for either the pioneers or the cowboys of the Wild West. Apparently it was a luxury to have your own toothbrush back then. Perhaps that answers the question of how grandmother’s remedy for cloves was born to soothe toothache. Those who have had a toothache in the past will not contradict me, we are ready to put anything in his mouth to calm the pain. And that also probably explains why we see so few open mouths in the photos.

But, despite everything, for those who wished to have some semblance of oral hygiene and not have to experiment with as yet unknown remedies, there apparently were means available. Be prepared to make a face of disgust because in some public spaces you could sometimes get your hands on a toothbrush. The only problem is, these toothbrushes are common. Not sure that it helped much to avoid infections, handy if you had an old piece of dried beef stuck between the molars. No need to dwell on the subject, we all experience the same thing when we think about it.

From beer to germs

Beer, arguably the oldest prepared food in human history and originally looked more like fermented broth than a cool, festive drink. The people of the American West very much enjoyed drinking a good, frothy beer in the saloon around the corner. Beer whose manufacturing process had already evolved a lot to what we know today. But what happens after you take a first sip of this refreshing nectar?

A pretty mustache full of foam, of course. But, in the Far West, we think of everything! So they had a brilliant idea, finally a practical solution to remedy this problem. In reality, it’s just disgusting when you think about it today because at the saloon counter, there was a towel with which everyone could wipe their mouth … Once again, we understand why diseases spread so easily . Personal note, take antibiotics, a toothbrush and tissues before traveling back in time to this wonderful time, from the point of view of bacteria of course.

Barber, blacksmith or dentist?

It was rather common at this time to practice several trades. The cook of the “chuk wagon” could also be a barber. Suffice to say that a dentist was not necessarily very professional and probably took on this role for utility more than for know-how. In 2017, the American magazine True West quoted Professor Joanna Bourke, a British historian who was interested in the history of dentistry. She says, “The excruciating toothaches, horrific extractions and barbaric tools have cast a great shadow over our dental past.

Lice fill the beds

Forget the mattresses and box springs that you know, if today the materials we use offer us more comfort and hygiene, this was not yet the case, nothing to do with what was done in the far west . Not all beds in the American West were made of straw and hay, but most mattresses were. Indeed the first “modern” mattresses were made from the 1900s, with springs and latex was introduced only in 1930 and was not available to everyone.

And this bedding was not changed often, as the straw and hay attracted insects, it led to invasive infestations of lice and other pests which of course were found on the people who slept there at the time. Suffice to say that a night in a bed already full of permanent tenants like those here should not help restful sleep. But lice, and other parasites, especially fleas, were only one of the disturbing groups of insects, they could of course make life in the Wild West even less pleasant and hygienic than it already was but it wasn’t the worst.

Insects more than annoying

Whether in beds in food or in fields, insects were a perennial problem for the men and women of the Wild West. The chemical industry was not yet out of the ground although knowledge on the subject was well advanced, there were still no pesticides that could help the extermination of pests that invaded fields, or to treat bedding and linens. Anything that might help contemporaries of the American wild west.

Without this chemical industry that would transform the next century as well as progress in biochemistry, flies buzzed around anything edible, often after frolicking in open-air toilets. These flying insects therefore carried faecal waste on foodstuffs as a result of which bacteria developed on it. This means that the risk of fatal disease was, unsurprisingly, very high. Mosquitoes were also extremely annoying, and the absence of screens on doors and windows gave these pests every chance to invade homes.

A dangerous drug

It seems that doctors in the Wild West used to unknowingly prescribe lethal concoctions to their patients. The doctors had not all studied medicine and many of them did not know what they were doing and were risking the lives of their patients. Suffice to say that you had to be in bad shape to go for a consultation, and under these conditions we probably preferred to keep the bed even infested with fleas rather than going to see the new doctor just arrived in town.

Most of the remedies concocted by improvised doctors had nasty side effects that could make you wish you had come. Let’s take an example, one of these drugs was called calomel. The problem was that it contained high concentrations of mercury, which made it dangerous or even fatal depending on the dose. As it caused excessive secretion of saliva, this so-called “medicine” was used as an intestinal purgative and antiseptic. Unfortunately, he also had a tendency to knock out people’s teeth. A small side effect of nothing at all, you might say!

Watch out for the water

Clean water is essential for the survival of any human being. It should also be noted that life expectancy has increased considerably thanks to wastewater treatment networks as well as thanks to the hygienic practices that we know today. But in the pioneer regions of the Wild West, this basic need was not always easy to satisfy, and the water that one drank was very likely to be contaminated and thus lead to serious illness.

Still far from having tap water, in this context you had to worry about your daily water supply and this constraint could lead you to take risks. Indeed, the water that could be found was often contaminated by leaky outhouses or by stagnant water which attracted flies and other insects which deposited waste and excrement there. Even rainwater collected in barrels was vulnerable to contamination due to recovery methods and failure to treat and store it properly. Also, the lack of overall hygiene at the time made it very difficult to find drinking water.

Precious water

For many in the Old West, wasting water on laundry or dishes just wasn’t an option. They had other priorities at the time and also because water was extremely scarce in this region and even more so during the hot season. Especially since you shouldn’t just think about your own consumption but be careful that the herd has what it takes to survive and grow and also for the crops that fed both cattle and humans.

Of course, not cleaning clothes regularly enough can lead to health problems like skin irritation, not to mention the lice and flea infestations we talked about just before. Failure to rinse dishes between uses can also lead to stomach problems. But compared to the problems that could be caused by a shortage of water, we probably preferred the remedy that causes teeth to fall out. It was developed then at that time a lot of practice to save water as we can see today in countries which lack water.

Baths were scarce

A bath or a good shower is a daily habit and something most people take for granted, but for the people of the Wild West, it was a rare luxury. It was common for a family to wash with one tub of water for all that could last a week. Nowadays, a day without a shower makes us smell repulsive, now try to imagine people back in the day between dental infections, skin problems from parasites and several days of exhausting work in the sun without washing.

So because of these recurring shortages of water, the time, wood and energy it took to have a bath or a shower, it was not uncommon to spend weeks without washing fully in the baths. pioneer regions. It should also be remembered that the work is hard and the days long at this time of year and that spending an hour or two to prepare a bath is not a priority. So the next time you take a shower or a bath and find it like a chore, remember that it is a chance and a luxury to have access to it. We are fortunate to be living in the present day if you think about it.

Soap, a luxury product

Despite these difficulties, there were still times when we washed and when the inhabitants of the Far West had the opportunity to take a bath, they had no shower gel, no clean and mild soap with the correct pH, nor bubble bath and regenerating salts with pleasant scents, to help them wash and smell good. Having a good smell was not a priority and even if it was, it was very expensive to have products that could help you in this direction. In these conditions, we washed for appearance rather than for hygiene in the end.

As said before, you could get soap if you had the means, but nothing to do with what you know. At best, soap in the Old West was a coarse slab made mostly of animal or plant fat. It was so unrefined and so corrosive, in fact, that it could even cause often very painful skin irritations. It was the price to pay for having any semblance of cleanliness back then. What you see in the Westerns movies isn’t totally wrong after all, and even, it would be even more realistic with toothless actors.

An astonishing belief

Strangely enough, people who lived in the Old West thought that bathing could actually be bad for your health. They were not educated on the benefits of a shower and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. These are pivotal times in personal hygiene, even though some countries around the world are further ahead than others. On the side of wealthy people, we are already assimilating some habits in this direction, but for the lower classes it will be necessary to wait for major urban developments in terms of access to water and a lot of instructions to change their habits.

Another time, another way of life. Let’s not forget that the knowledge we have in our contemporary world, in medicine, biology, chemistry and physics is quite recent. As well as the development of industries to provide all the necessary conditions to be able to take care of their health. Without all this, it is quite normal that the gap between their way of living and ours is so great. And the toilet is not the only one of the big changes that have taken place in science and industry. In the end, almost all parts of our societies have been transformed. Let’s continue with other very striking examples.

They believed that washing too often could cause the pores to dilate, allowing germs and disease to enter the body more easily. It was utter nonsense, of course. Finally, they were not really bothered by not being able to bathe every day since they thought it was not good for them. As a result, everyone was surprisingly tolerant of body odor they considered natural.

Spittoons in the saloons

In the Old West, it was quite normal to spit. This is why spittoons were common in the region at the time. Fortunately, some countries ban it in public these days. This is the accessory that is almost always present in films, cartoons and comics dealing with this subject. And sometimes, we can even see a protagonist covered with the contents of the spittoon. What disgust the spectators when you know what they contain.

Just to get a clear idea, here’s how it filled up. Many cowboys chewed tobacco, then coughed up bundles of brownish mucus into the spittoon. As the level rose, the proliferation of bacteria thickened the fluid which became significantly loaded with pathogens. As a result, the content was an ideal vehicle for the spread of unsympathetic diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia. The spittoons were placed in the saloons on the floor along the counter at the level of the famous copper rail which must therefore be dripping with saliva.

Sleep in sawdust

When you walk into a bar these days, you can’t imagine seeing litter on the floor like the one you give horses. Yet, and perhaps in part, because everyone was chewing and coughing up tobacco. Besides spilled glasses, food falling on the floors and whatever people carried with their shoes, the floors of the saloons were covered with a layer of sawdust. Not everyone could afford to rent a room to sleep.

As we have just seen, spittoons were installed on the ground. As you can imagine the cowboys weren’t bothered with the details, they didn’t really have to worry about spitting on the side. This is the reason sawdust covered the floor of the saloons. And since it wasn’t disgusting enough to walk on this stuff, travelers staying in these taverns had to lie on this filth as well. It is to be hoped for them that the grime accumulated on their skin was a barrier to the mixture of sawdust and everything that could be on the ground.

Whiskey shampoo

Here is another of the great extras of works on the wild west. Whiskey, which was the favorite alcoholic drink of many men in the Old West, certainly because the beer did not contain enough alcohol. It is still true that whiskey is better than beer, in taste and texture. And by drawing a parallel with hygiene and diet, we understand the particular attraction of strong alcohol, which in some cases was supposed to soothe pain or even reduce certain oral infections.

Alcohol was doing a lot of service at the time. It also served as a preservative for questionable foods and remedies which have already been discussed. But not only because the famous fiery water, which bore names as colorful as “tarantula juice” and “coffin varnish”, was really more than a simple alcohol that we drink with friends at the aperitif for the festivities. . Associated with lavender and castor oil, whiskey was also used as a shampoo. You may wonder how fragrant you would be after this hair wash. In any case, the lice must have taken a hit.

Too cold to swim

What we might recognize as a modern bathroom was more than rare in the Old West. If you remember correctly, you had to pay a fortune to be able to take a nice hot bath in the Westerns movies and that was a real fact. Most of the daily actions that we do took a considerable amount of time, so of course we did without as much as we could. Imagine an entire year at the campsite without sanitary facilities and with a river at 10 ° C as the only water point. How long will you go without washing?

The fighters, pioneers and cowboys who roamed the lands of the American West could go weeks, even months, without taking a real hot bath. Indeed, they were content to bathe in the streams and rivers which seemed relatively clean. It is therefore easy to imagine, given the temperature of the river water even in summer, that winter baths were therefore excluded. It must have been very tempting to want to push his neighbor’s cart into the nearest river. Besides, it is likely that you had to make up your mind to brave the cold water by overhearing others complaining about your smell.

Horse water

If there is one point to be corrected in the collective imagination, it is the cowboy’s vision. When you are asked to think of a cowboy, it is likely that Clint Eastwood is galloping in your imagination. However, in reality they don’t have as much class, they are most of the time with their herd, unarmed possibly seeing a colt to scare away the coyotes and you would probably smell the arrival of a cowboy boy, though. you translate directly, even before you see it.

You wonder why ? Well, it’s pretty straightforward, most of them spent so much time on horseback that it was normal to wear a constant horse scent. And when you know how powerful the horse smell is, you can’t help but imagine those stinking cowboys arriving, surrounded by a swarm of insects attracted to the scent. So, do you still think of Clint Eastwood now? Not to mention that the condition of the cowboy is not enviable, it is a task for the poor and foreigners. Half of them were black, Mexican or Indian. As for the whites, they came from poor families or were vagrants.

Watch out for the bed!

If you were on the road and needed a bed for the night, you probably ended up in a dingy place or a saloon. The alcohol was flowing and everyone loved to drink, so ended up sleeping where they got drunk. With a day of riding in the legs and a good bottle of whiskey, sleep should not be hard to find despite these unimaginable conditions for us. Today we still find lovers of the wild west who at the end of a well-watered evening carry on this tradition.

You will understand, you can be happy to find a bed for the night, but you really should not be careful about cleanliness. Indeed, the hygiene of these homes was subject to questioning. You might wonder who had slept in this bed before you and what illnesses you were likely to catch. We can also wonder about the freshness of the laundry. As we talked about earlier, lice and fleas were really widespread, to be sure. And it was not uncommon to huddle and sleep together, sometimes even with people you didn’t know.

Confront the dangers of beards

In the days of the Old West, since most items like razors were very expensive for a large part of the population, owning them was a sign of wealth. You could therefore distinguish a person’s social position at a glance. In the case of razors, you had to go see a barber if you didn’t have one, so many men never shaved and wore rather extravagant beards and mustaches. While beards are all the rage today, you are probably wondering what the problem is.

Well, one of the unfortunate side effects of an untamed beard could be a dramatic deterioration in hygiene, especially if there weren’t many opportunities to wash properly. And of course it was. After all, some people now claim that a beard can harbor a real zoo of bacteria, so imagine when you didn’t necessarily wash your face every day and wipe yourself off with the towels. common areas of the saloon after having drunk a good beer… Suffice to say that the bacterial activity of this biotope had to keep warm the winter.

Valley fever

As we have already said, diseases were numerous in these conditions. As for nasty fungal infections, they were a common and even permanent danger to the people of the Old West. A danger because a persistent infection like those caused by pathogenic fungi could really handicap you in the daily tasks and cause excruciating pain or even lead to death. There were several diseases that ravaged the population of that time and among them this infection.

After a hard day of riding the land or dragging a cart through nature is enough to make anyone a little hot and sweaty. And this is precisely the environment in which these various fungal infections like to thrive. One of its particularly strong irritants was the fungus Coccidioides immitis, which was widespread in the Western United States. It gave rise to an unpleasant infection known as coccidioidomycosis or valley fever, which patients recovered after several days of incapacity but which in some cases caused serious lung infections.

Do not drink sulfur

Many in the Old West thought they knew a thing or two about self-medication. Doctors were already very rare, this encouraged people even more to find remedies on their own by trying all kinds of things that were often more dangerous than the initial ailment. Or by associating virtues with products without knowing the real reason or without knowing the doses to use. The quantity makes the poison, a certain dose of curare anesthetizes you and allows the surgery when a higher dose makes you sleep permanently.

Definitely, you don’t improvise yourself as a doctor and a bad medicine and very often worse than the illness. One of the common misconceptions among residents of the American West. They believed that the more unpleasant the remedy, the more likely it was to be effective. If the taste is disgusting and the smell even worse, then this must be good for you. This is how some have ended up drinking sulfur, with its horribly potent rotten egg smell. Modern medicine, of course, does not support this practice, as it is potentially very harmful. Even less does she defend the idea that a painful remedy would be more effective.

Doctor or charlatan?

If you were sick in the Old West days, like we would now, you would go see a doctor, only it’s not that easy. It was quite possible to run into someone who claimed to be one, but who had just improvised as a doctor out of necessity, whether for the community or not for profit. How do we know who we were dealing with? Suffice to say that with this risk, the reputation of a doctor was important and that most of the patients had to arrive in really calamitous states.

So it was quite possible that you saw someone pretending to be a doctor when they had no skills and you had no guarantee that you would come out alive. There were many properly trained practitioners, for the time, in the American West, yet they were few in number and often already in military service or practicing for “upper class” people. So you had to cross your fingers to come across a self-taught doctor, otherwise call charlatan who knew what to do in your case and make sure he didn’t leave town until your remission.

Attention to the doctor

In cases where you were lucky enough to run into a doctor who had received real medical training in the Wild West, that might not be the end of your worries. You had to trust him no matter what he inflicted on you. And you had to hope once again that the disease you had was familiar to him and that he had effective treatment. The ancestors of Native Americans were a great help in finding the right plants and knowing how to prepare them. Rightly so, given that they have occupied and known this territory and its flora for several millennia.

Because in fact, even qualified practitioners had very strange ideas about what constituted appropriate treatment. Some bizarre procedures performed by “real” doctors “include bleeding, removing pieces of flesh, and wrapping the patient in cotton wool before setting them on fire. While in Indian culture we already know ointments and inhalations with the appropriate plants to treat infections. The advances in this area are truly incredible, and fortunately, because this kind of extreme practice is over and condemned today, to be sure.

A powerful purgative

One of the favorite treatments of physicians practicing in the Old West was the generous prescription of strong purgatives. He believed that the only way to cure a disease was to literally get rid of it. They must have drawn that kind of conclusion when the saloon closed when they saw the drunks regurgitate their excess alcohol. When you think about it, it’s not that silly reasoning. The body when fighting an infection often responds by expelling in any way it can.

But while this type of treatment could help you in a few rare cases, it was not suitable for the most part. It was such a widespread and frequent practice, in fact, that it bordered on danger and could lead to predictable unpleasant results. One of these drugs, ipecac syrup, caused profuse vomiting. The idea was, you see, that purging the body would fight disease. As we mentioned before, it only rarely helped in the end. As you can imagine, modern doctors certainly wouldn’t recommend doing this today either.

Swamp fever

The eccentricities of the doctors of the Wild West, whether they had medical training or not, seem to have known no bounds. They had preconceived ideas on how to treat certain patients which although it might seem logical, did not help the patient in any way. Rome was not built in a day and neither did our medical knowledge. And we definitely still have a lot to learn on the subject. So let’s take a look at these quirks with some hindsight and without judgment.

Among the wackiest, there was one of their treatments against malaria, for example, which consisted in undressing the patient and leaving him uncovered outside to “cool” him as much as possible. This process, accelerated by buckets of cold water, was intended to induce chills. And if unfortunately the tremors became too severe, we administered opium, just that! Hit or miss! With what it is malaria today, anyone can tell you that this treatment was completely useless or even counterproductive as it could worsen the disease and lead you to a more serious form.

Questionable gadgets

In addition to the quack treatments, doctors in the American West used equipment of questionable quality and effectiveness. Faced with the difficulty of doctors to treat their patients, the priesthood to gain their confidence, the use of gadgets could captivate the first comer and thus give pledge to the practitioner that he must know so much if he uses such a mysterious object. The lack of general knowledge of science has really cost a lot of lives and left the sick in disarray.

Let’s take an example that perfectly illustrates the situation. They used a gadget called a pulsometer which was nothing more than a glass container of colored water with blisters at each end. The patient had to grasp the pulsometer by the bulbs and this process was said to have the objective of giving the patient’s pulse. After a short while, bubbles rose in the fluid and the doctor was pulling diagnostic information from them. But what was this device actually measuring? Well, nowadays we can say, quite frankly, that he was measuring absolutely nothing at all.

Drink to kill leeches

It cannot be repeated enough to realize how much sweeter times we live in. Falling ill in the lands of the Old West was no picnic and a source of abysmal anguish. Even if you could find a doctor, there was no guarantee that the treatment would be effective based on their practices. The disease terrified the pioneers so much that it came to extremes not to have to cross paths with caregivers. And for good reason when we know that they still practiced bloodletting.

Bloodletting had been practiced for several centuries around the world and it was criticized at the end of the 1800s. It is still practiced today in rare cases and probably in a more sterile way. In the end the strategies weren’t that many, bleeding purge or filthy mixture because the worse it is, the better it works according to their logic. Often bleeding was the only solution offered, sometimes using leeches. And if the patient inadvertently swallowed one of these leeches, then the remedy was to drink a glass of wine every 15 minutes in the hope that the alcohol would kill the beast. It’s a funny idea, but in the end, the patient shouldn’t be complaining more than that.

Treatment with dead dog

In ignorance, some improvised with a strong imagination, it must be said, in the search for new treatments. David Dary, author of the book “Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific” released on November 4, 2008, reference work, provides an overview of the different on medicine and its evolution in America since the arrival of the first explorers . He tells us what remedy was used for gout and rheumatism in 1815. These methods were closer to witchcraft than anything else.

Sensitive soul, refrain from reading further. Here is the recipe for a dead dog remedy. The treatment consisted in the first place in slaughtering a “young fat dog” then in skinning it and finally, in emptying it. The viscera were then mixed with chicken eggs, nettles, “red peach worms”, turpentine, sulfur, tobacco. A few variations were possible, but apparently the basis was the dog. After that, the foul, smelly mixture was returned to the dog’s bowels, and the whole thing was roasted while the patient sat by the fire. Impressive !?!

Suck a lemon

Among the diseases that struck the pioneers, there was scurvy which was more strongly associated with sailors during long voyages at sea. For good reason, this disease occurs when one is deficient in vitamin C for one to three months and which entails many inconveniences. But for all that, it did not spare the inhabitants of the Wild West. To avoid it easily, get enough vitamin C, hence the advice to suck on a lemon although many other foods could also do the trick.

Regardless, some of those who arrived by sea in the California gold fields had not had sources of vitamin C for long periods of time. These deficiencies could also be the result of undernourishment or unbalance. It is therefore not surprising that they suffered from unpleasant episodes of debilitating scurvy, which in the most severe cases result in loosening of the teeth, purulent gums, haemorrhages, edema and depression. Left untreated, it ultimately resulted in the patient’s sudden death from heart failure.

Painful wiping

From Roman latrines with the crappy stick to toilets with automatic cleaning, heated seat and as long as you do a little game or a magazine, it’s a whole story that has evolved into more comfort and privacy. Today we have toilet paper, and it looks like we should be grateful for that, because the question of how to wipe off has brought several uncomfortable or disgusting solutions. Make your choice, sticks, stones, leaves or even a fabric for the better-off, that we reused several times before cleaning it briefly.

The concept of toilet paper that we use today was not invented until 1857 in America, and it will be a long time before it becomes widespread in its use and even more so that it is accessible. to all. In the living conditions of the colonization of the American West, such convenience did not really exist. After a visit to the outhouse around this time, people resorted to anything from corn on the cob to grass to clean themselves. We can only conclude that they were made of a stronger material at that time (exit the triple thickness) sometimes causing pain due to cuts or strong irritations.

Spectators during an operation

Surgery in the Far West must have been frightening enough and complicating enough, given the conditions in which they operated and the visits of the curious who were piling up as close as possible were not to help. Indeed, it often happened that some people did not hesitate to invade the operating rooms to have a good audience and a few free drinks in the saloon. You have to take care of it and without all the fun you can get, surgery had to be a most exciting spectacle in the end.

But it would appear that some people were just too curious to stay at home. One such case is described in American Heritage magazine, when an unfortunate Colorado woman had to have her head tumor excised by Dr. Charles Gardiner. Much to Gardiner’s dismay, and no doubt this poor lady, a man made his way into the operating room and was telling the crowd that had gathered outside what he saw. In other words, we are far from clean rooms with a controlled atmosphere with the possibility of working in a space without any nanoparticles in the air.

A versatile whiskey

The whiskey had obvious recreational utility, as it was consumed in saloons of the Old West. Even if its place at the center of the collective imagination of this period is obviously overestimated because it is the coffee that was consumed the most in everyday life. But coffee didn’t have all of the benefits of whiskey for misuse. It is quite possible that this alcoholic drink has helped save a lot of lives and alleviate pain and heartache.

Regarding secondary uses other than festive consumption, this spirit has proven to be incredibly versatile in allowing the summary disinfection of surgical tools or even wounds. Yes, if nothing else was at hand, surgeons would sterilize their instruments with pure whiskey. But also to numb the pain when the dentist treated your teeth. It could also be used in the kitchen. Despite all the disgusting habits we know now, it seems the American West had their own version of the hydroalcoholic gel and knew how to value whatever they had according to their needs. “Necessity is the mother of invention” Plato.

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