Weeds, Herbs, & Hog Fat: Ed Craft (1913–1996), ‘folk doctoring’ in Sulphur Springs, Texas

Warren Robert ‘Hank’ Vine of Sulphur Springs, Texas provides this beautiful memory of his uncle, Edward Craft — an isolated and marginalized figure in the local history of Sulphur Springs who was at one time known to family members as an effective herbalist and healer:

“I was often told growing up that I would be like my uncle Ed. He passed away in my early teens, I knew him fairly well, but not exceedingly well. By the time I was old enough to actually get out and about and go visit him and stuff like that, and I was pretty much the only one that did visit him ever.

He was pretty senile. Couldn’t really carry on the most lucid conversations. In hindsight I wish I would have spent more time with him and taken more notes, because he was reputed, or my grandmother always described him as being a folk doctor, one the family would go to when they had illnesses. I wish somebody was alive I could actually get the correct details on this from.

Although it may be in some of my mother’s notes — they’re such exhaustive notes I don’t know if I could find it. It would take a year to find it. He had some incident when he was a child, like he was 6 or 7, where he fell gravely gravely ill, after it he was partially deaf, I want to say blind in one eye. I could be lying to you on that. I want to say blind in one eye. I know later in life as an old man he was nearly completely blind, but, after the near death experience for lack of a better word apparently he had a degree of insight, an understanding of herbs and poultices and what not.

I don’t think mama put down a whole lot of information in regard to his ‘quote unquote’ healing practices. No one referred to him as a witch or a wizard or anything of that nature. Ed used what my grandma would call, ‘niggra medicine’ or ‘widow healing’. I never gave it a lot of thought growing up.

I can always remember my grandmother talking about her brother Ed, her little brother Ed, or Eddie as she would call him a lot of times, could heal anything. Animals were sick, he could take care of them, you know when one of the family got sick, Ed would figure out something, he’d go to the woods, he come back with some weeds, herbs, mix it with some hog fat, make it alright type thing.

I can remember those stories, those are all stories that are passed down and how accurate, i don’t know. The genuine article is never labeled as hoodoo or magic or anything like that. It’s a subtle and unspoken undercurrent to the fabric of peoples lives, often times I don’t think those who carry on the traditions even think of them as a magical, it’s simply what grandma and grandpa did.

He hated having his picture made, never came to Christmas, never anything, was a complete recluse, and other than my mother and I very few of the family went to visit. I think everything he had probably got dozed when the house he had was bulldozed. I don’t think anything got taken out of the house.

I would say later in life he was, how would you say, ostracized by the family, I think in hindsight. My grandmother would speak of him, about when he was a child, but I cannot recall - at least in my memory - my grandmother going to visit him. I do not recall him ever being at a family function, Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving anything of that nature.

As I can remember, when I got up old enough to kind of get around, sneak around and drive, I wasn’t old enough to drive, but I was still driving. I would take you know thanksgiving dinner, christmas dinner over to him. Generally my mother and I were the only ones to go and visit him.”

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