Sunday, June 23, 2013

Poison Iv-y-y-y-y, Poison Iv-y-y-y-y

"You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion, you'll be scratchin' like a hound the minute you mess around with poison iv-y-y-y-y, poison iv-y-y-y-y...." those are some of the words to a #1 hit by the Coasters when I was a teenager in 1959. I assumed the song was about the three-leafed danger Mom had warned us about as children: "Leaves of three, let them be." But if you read about the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stollar penned hit, you discover it was really about a girl named Ivy and her reputation. I was so naive.

Leaves of three, let them be.
One evening last week I caught just a bit of a news blurb on one of the local Des Moines TV stations. It was something about a local company which manufactured and sold the only product that really worked to treat poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I heard the newscaster say, "It works, but it is expensive."

The product they were talking about is something called Zanfel. And I would consider it expensive at $40.00 for a one-ounce tube, but if it works it would be a small price to pay to eliminate two weeks of misery. Also it says it has a 10-year shelf-life if some is left over. It claims it works because it is the only product known to remove urushiol - the toxin responsible for the reaction to contact with poison ivy. I hope I never have to find out if it works - some of those online pictures of poison ivy rash and blisters are appalling.

A young Ruth Ridnour

Hearing the story about Zanfel on TV reminded me of two poison ivy stories from my childhood - the first related by my Mom about her own childhood. It seems she was upset with her mother about something. She decided a way to get even with her was to go roll in a patch of poison ivy. How that was supposed to punish my Grandma, I'm not sure - maybe so she would have to take care of Mom? So the young Ruth rolled around in the poison ivy - and nothing happened! She did not react to it; hope she realized how lucky she was.

My little sis, Betty Lynam
The second story is from my sister Betty's and my childhood. One of our favorite places to play in the hot summer weather was in a big concrete culvert under the gravel road a half mile east of our farm. It was easily accessible by walking down the lane to the pasture. It seemed there was always some water inside the tube and it was much cooler in there. We would splash around awhile, watch the swallows flying in and out feeding their babies in those cup-shaped mud nests and swing from some heavy wires stretched between the sides of the culvert.
One time instead of walking home in those well-worn cow paths in the lane, we decided to walk home on the road. Part-way home Betty decided she had to pee and couldn't wait until we got to the house so she squatted in the weeds in the ditch where she would be partially concealed if a car went by. The next day she had an awful poison ivy rash all over her bottom. I remember Mom taking her to old Doc Fry, but there wasn't much he could suggest except calamine lotion. Too bad Zanfel hadn't been invented yet because Betty did have to experience two weeks of misery.

"A common cold'll fool ya, and whooping cough'll cool ya, but poison ivy, Lord'll make you itch! Poison iv-y-y-y, poison iv-y-y-y-y......"


  1. This is funny. I was singing this song a couple weeks ago and your daughter accused me of making it up. I can't believe she hadn't heard it before.

    1. Unfortunately when I was young my mother told me I "couldn't carry a tune in a bushel basket" so I never sang much when anyone else was around. Therefore I didn't sing all those old songs to my kids. What a deprived childhood they had. :-)