How to Fix a Broken Arm
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Book: 
Petrified Lightning

How to Fix a Broken Arm

To anyone working or playing in the desert, a welcome sight is the cottonwood tree, the shade tree of the plains, prairies, and deserts. No respectable ranch anywhere at any time would be complete without the cottonwood.

As important as its shade might be, other uses for the cottonwood were discovered during the early days of taming the West. Both animals and humans were aware of its value as an indicator of moisture somewhere below the surface. Native Americans and early settlers soon discovered its therapeutic value in setting broken bones. By boiling down cottonwood bark, they obtained a thick, honeylike syrup that would set broken bones in a remarkable cast.

The bark was placed in a large vessel and hung over a fire for cooking. The process was not lengthy, but to the person with the broken limb who had to wait until the bark was collected and the syrup prepared, it may have seemed interminable. The injured arm or leg was wrapped in a cloth, and the cooled syrup was spread completely over the wrapping. This quickly hardened into an effective immobilizing cast. The cast disintegrated in about two months, just long enough for the bone to heal.