The story goes that a man named John H. MacColl suffered mountain fever after coming west to Nebraska for his health, of all things. Wasn't just a set back either; inside of a day or two he was unable to move from the waist down, fully paralyzed. Somehow, he made it to Fort McPherson, forty miles away, to see the post surgeon, who, after those visits, simply told Mr. MacColl that there was nothing he could do.
Here's where the story gets going, the incredible complication of the old story. A traditional medicine man just happened along, or so the story goes, and somehow--the two of them not sharing a language--managed to explain to the bed-ridden MacColl that, if MacColl truly believed him, the old medicine man could heal him up good.
Keep in mind that John H. MacColl had absolutely no choice at this point. Out there in the middle of nowhere, his life's prospects weren't exactly soaring, so he signed in for the treatment.
The next day the medicine man brought along an interpreter to make clear what he'd try to say the day before--that he could heal MacColl if MacColl would submit to the treatment he was offering. Once more, MacColl agreed.
What's to come here isn't pretty, but then, I imagine, neither was MacColl's paralysis.
The medic took a saw-tooth knife out of his pocket and began making a whole series of open cuts into MacColl's buck naked body, a hundred of them, or so the story goes. What it was, MacColl never really knew, but the medic took some kind of herb or something from a pouch and started to chew it as if it were tobacco.
That munching accomplished, he spit something of whatever he was chewing into his fingers and proceeded to rub it into each of those hundred cuts.
That was the promised treatment. That was all of it. Trust me, I'm not swearing by any of this.
In three days, Laura MacColl says--John's sister--her brother could actually stand alone. A week later, he could walk.
Lots of talk about miracles as of late, the Vatican having substantially proven two of them attributed to Mother Teresa, the requirement for Roman Catholic sainthood. In a recent New York Times op ed, Jacalyn Duffin recounts a story for which she was subpoenaed to testify, the case of a woman so far gone with cancer that there was no question she'd begun the inevitable march to her demise.
Not so. Months later--years later--the patient was still alive. Jacalyn Duffin was asked to testify, even though the hearing was ecclesiastical and Duffin an atheist. She was asked because the church wanted to know whether what happened was or was not a miracle from the likes of her, a physician of repute who's actually a certified atheist. Duffin says she made very clear that there was no scientific reason for the patient's still being alive. Here's Ms. Duffin's final paragraph.
Respect for our religious patients demands understanding and tolerance; their beliefs are as true for them as the “facts” may be for physicians. Now almost 40 years later, that mystery woman is still alive and I still cannot explain why. Along with the Vatican, she calls it a miracle. Why should my inability to offer an explanation trump her belief? However they are interpreted, miracles exist, because that is how they are lived in our world.So don't ask me about John H. MacConn. The whole story could be a fib or a myth or sheer happenstance. Maybe John H. simply had a bad case of gas and it passed--I don't know, and no one ever will.
As Ms. Duffin the unbeliever says, "Why should my inability to offer an explanation trump" the MacConn story?
I'll just shake my head and let it be.