If you have been a runner for long, odds are you have heard of Bag Balm. I used Bag Balm in my first ultras, after tiring of the greasy, stickiness of Vaseline. Bag Balm worked on my feet.
Lyndonville, Vermont is a long way from almost everything. Tucked in the northern corner of Vermont, is a one-room “plant” by the family owned Dairy Association Co., Inc. – six employees, two officers and no sales force – operating in a cluster of converted railroad buildings in this small (pop. 1,215) town.
Petrolatum is shoveled from 50-gallon drums into a large vat and blended with lanolin from Uruguay, then heated to 95 degrees. A machine quickly squirts the goop into metal cans that are cooled, capped and packaged. The familiar green can.
The Associated Press ran a story about Bag Balm. They wrote: The phones are ringing at Bag Balm headquarters. Everyone wants a new tub of the gooey, yellow-green ointment. And all have a story about its problem-salving – they use it on squeaky bed springs, psoriasis, dry facial skin, cracked fingers, burns, zits, diaper rash, saddle sores, sunburn, pruned trees, rifles, shell casings, bed sores and radiation burns. Everything, it seems, except for cows.
Developed in 1899 to soothe the irritated udders of milking cows, the substance with the mild medicinal odor has evolved into a medicine chest must-have, with as many uses as Elmer’s glue.
Athletes have used Bag Balm everywhere. Literally. On feet as a lubricant, on underarms and inner thighs for chafing, under shorts for chafing from front to back, for chapped lips, under waist or shoulder straps of fanny and back packs – anywhere there is rubbing and chafing.
As usual, the a bit of common sense is encouraged. Clean off any old lube before applying a new coating. Be watchful of sand or grit picked up in the lube.
Sold off pet care shelves and at farm stores for $8.99 per 10-oz. green tub (with cow’s head on the lid), it’s made of petrolatum, lanolin and an antiseptic, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate – substantially the same formula used since John L. Norris bought it from a Wells River druggist before the turn of the century.
Distributed by wholesalers and sold retail in farm stores, national drugstore chains and general stores, its popularity has grown largely with word-of-mouth advertising as converts becomes users and then devotees.
For all its myriad uses, there’s one place its makers say never to use it. “Never put Bag Balm in your hair, because you will not get it out.”
Never used it? Pick up a small tin to keep in your field bag. You’ll be glad you did. You can typically find it in your local drug store or feed and tack shop.