A recent article in the New Yorker recounted how during World War I, U.S. Army doctors doing medical inspections discovered a high incidence of goitre. Because of a lump on their necks from a swelling of a thyroid gland, a number of men could not button the top button of their uniforms. Eventually, doctors also noticed that the recruits were more likely to have the problem if they lived far from the ocean. (Malcolm Gladwell, “Man and Superman,” New Yorker 16 (9 Sept. 2013).)
Eventually, they determined that an iodine deficiency caused the goitre, as well as deficiencies in intelligence. Those who lived nearer the ocean were getting more iodine in their diet while those elsewhere were not getting enough of it because oceans maintain iodine levels better than soil. Because iodine is not present in a lot of food, the government convinced the Morton Salt Company to start adding iodine to its salt in 1924. And IQ’s rose and incidences of goitre dropped. Iodine supplements have similarly increased IQ’s around the world.
One of the best songs with “salt” in its title is “Rock Salt and Nails,” written by Utah Phillips. Although YouTube does not have a video of Phillips singing his song, in this video, Tony Norris plays part of the song and tells how Phillips came to write it.
A number of artists have covered the song, including Joan Baez, Flatt & Scruggs, and Waylon Jennings. The song is not really about iodized salt, and the reference to salt in the title does not appear in the song until the final shocking line. In the song, the singer reveals his sorrow because a lover has betrayed him. The song reflects both his anger and his sadness. Regarding the latter, he cannot help thinking back on happier times: “Now I lie on my bed and I see your sweet face / The past I remember time cannot erase.” But at the end of the song, he exclaims that if ladies were squirrels, he would “fill up his shotgun with rock salt and nails.”
Steve Young recorded what many consider a landmark outlaw country album in 1969 that used Phillips’s song for the title track. The album featured guest musicians like Gram Parsons.
My favorite version, though, is the one by Buddy and Julie Miller from their 2001 album Buddy & Julie Miller. I am a fan of anything by Buddy and Julie, and here Buddy’s powerful voice captures the anger and sadness in the song perfectly.
So today’s lesson is eat a little salt for your thyroid and to get smarter. But try to get through your day without loading some salt and nails in your shotgun.
What is your favorite version of “Rock Salt and Nails”? Leave your two cents in the comments.
The Life and Songs of Emmylou HarrisBuddy Miller’s Touchstone: “That’s How I Got to Memphis”Colvin & Earle: “Ruby Tuesday”Coldplay Video Uses Archival World War I FootageThe First Farm Aid“It Ain’t You” From Ray Benson and Willie Nelson (Song of the Day)
(Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)