The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Doctor Great Eagle

By Conway Smith © 1987

Issue: June, 1987

Time was when pitchmen used to set up their stands on street corners in small towns and cities all over America. They offered for sale a multiplicity of merchandise, which they palmed off on naive bystanders with suave and persuasive flapdoodle. The most appealing products sold by the pitchmen were proprietary medicines; but there were many other items – jewelry, kitchenware, soap, lineament, hair tonic, glue – and what not.

The pitchman is still with us; but he has transferred his activities from the street corner to television – and his pitch is now termed a "commercial." In millions of homes he convinces gullible TV addicts that they must rush down to the shopping center and purchase some new product that they never before realized they were in dire need of.

Typical of the old–time pitchmen who used to visit Martins Tank was Doctor Great Eagle. He set up his stand where the alley back of the hotel comes out onto Main Street. The Doctor stood well over six feet and weighed some 300 pounds. With his copper complexion, black hair plaited in two long braids and wide brimmed Stetson hat he was the most impressive looking medicine man ever to visit these parts.

His stand set up – with Doctor Great Eagle's Famous Indian Remedy on display – the Doctor would discard his Stetson and don an Indian war bonnet of eagle feathers. As a crowd began to gather he would break out a banjo, a deck of cards, and a ventriloquist's dummy; and entertain his audience with banjo music, card tricks, and ventriloquism. When the crowd had swelled to satisfactory proportions, the Doctor would conclude his entertainment – and make his pitch for Doctor Great Eagle's Famous Indian Remedy.

The only prop the Doctor used was a tremendous tapeworm in a jar of alcohol. This monster had been exorcised from a patient in Montana by the Famous Indian Remedy. The elixir would positively clear the alimentary canal of all refuse and expel all unwelcome guests. The medicine was also a potent cure for rheumatism, heartburn, coughs and colds, and most miseries known to man. It could be used both internally and externally – being an excellent hair restorer.

Enthralled by Doctor Great Eagle's vast medical knowledge and oratorical powers, most everybody within earshot was soon convinced that his greatest need was a bottle of the Famous Indian Remedy; and dollar bills and bottles were soon shuttling back and forth like mad.

What excellent use the good Doctor could have made of the props flashed on the screen by today's TV pitchmen: the man with the hammer in his head – the lady with her spinal column twisted into knots – the gentleman with fire in his stomach – the sufferer with his sinus full of slush. Doctor Great Eagle's Famous Indian Remedy would have cured all these ailments – and many more. But unfortunately Doctor Great Eagle went to the happy hunting ground long before television was ever dreamed of.