Thursday, March 24, 2011

You remind me of someone I know

Looking out at the ravages left behind from what has been a brutal winter I am not eager to tackle the yard work that needs done to transform my property from one of ugliness to something that shows that I care about what the neighbors might think.

In all honesty I don't, but I happen to be someone that feels a sense of pride when my yard looks good. I do it for me, but have you ever mowed a lawn using a mower that had no motor?

In recent years I would curse out loud if my mower ran out of gas before I finished the job, but in the days when I had more energy than I could possibly burn up in a day I would walk the neighborhoods hiring myself out to make other lawns look great for about a dollar a yard using what was called a push mower.

No cords to yank to get them started, no spark plugs to clean off or replace and best of all, no gas can. And with the price of gasoline now soaring by the day... no grumbling that I would have to mow three yards just to buy a gallon of it if I were to charge that same dollar. With jobs as scarce as they are now I am thinking about it.

But speaking of that, have you ever raked a neighbors leaves for that same amount? And speaking of piles of leaves, have you ever burned them and if you did, did you savor the aroma that surrounded you? If you smell burning leaves now does it take you back to that time?

Burning leaves was something that was very common around my neighborhood when I was a kid. I think everyone on my block did that and not just leaves...have you ever burned trash in a fifty gallon drum? Was there ever a time in your life when taking out the trash would become an adventure? For me it was. Separating anything that would burn from everything that wouldn't and igniting it in a big can while imagining I was watching buildings on fire instead of milk cartons.

And speaking of such juvenile pyromania, have you ever placed firecrackers in a plastic model car and then blown it up?

Using the funds I would earn from my neighbors when I was small I would buy model car kits from a drug store called Sloan's Drugs a few blocks from my home for around a buck and a half and then spend hours lying across my bed gluing it all together, then painting it and eventually destroying it.

Have you ever poured lighter fluid on something and then lit it just to watch it burn? Did lighter fluid ever smell good to you? What about pipe tobacco? Have you ever enjoyed being in the presence of someone when they lit their pipe to smoke it? My dad's favorite brand "Cherry Blend" comes to mind here. Have you ever called a store and asked if they had Prince Albert in a can? Do remember what you said to them if they did?

(You should let him out before he suffocates!) Does that ring a bell?

Did you ever buy a pack of cigarettes when you weren’t old enough and when it required nothing more than about thirty cents and a note from an adult? Of course that was in the days when lighting up indoors wasn't a criminal offense or when it wasn't regarded as child endangering if kids were in the room.

On the tobacco topic...have you ever asked an adult to save a cigar box for you? Or if you weren't shy about such things have you ever asked a store clerk behind a counter if he or she had any empty ones?

I don't remember exactly what I used them for but I seem to recall owning several empty cigar boxes as a kid. It would seem that I might have had a fascination for things that were either flammable or could be smoked when I was a kid does it not? I don't think that was the case though, I think that I was just a kid in a time when doing some of the things I did wasn't always a cause for alarm or worries of how I might grow up.

But that reminds me, have you ever tried to burn something with a magnifying glass? Ever focused one on your own hand to see how long you could stand it? Ever tried to burn a bug with one?

Speaking of making fire, have you ever wasted a book of matches by lighting them all at once without pulling them from their cover? Do you remember when a book of matches cost around a penny, or when individual pieces of candy did? Have you ever needed a match to light a stove?

Have you ever stood in front of a glass case and pointed to pieces of candy and said “I'll take a penny's worth of those?"

Have you ever picked up a penny off the ground and thought that someone else's misfortune was a windfall for you? Have you ever seen one on the ground and not picked it up because you were afraid someone would see you do it? Have you ever picked one up and put in your shoe for good luck?

I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney! But have you ever gotten a dime for going to the store for your mother? Did she ever remind you..."don't forget my stamps?" Do you remember watching her lick trading stamps to place them into stamp books or did you ever peruse a catalogue to decide what you would get with those books if they were yours do what you wanted? Ever get a dime for a grade in school, I mean in addition to your regular allowance? Was your allowance ever withheld as part of a punishment for something you shouldn't have done?

Was missing your favorite television programs ever because there was only one television in the house? Was there ever a time when you pretended to hate the programs your parents watched but watched them anyway because you really did like them?

Have you ever lain in front of a TV on your side with your head cradled in the palm of your hand while balancing yourself with your elbow resting on the floor? Have you ever wanted to stay up later to watch something only to have your mother remind you that it was a school night?

Do you remember when everything you watched was in black and white and there were just three channels and all of them signed off around midnight? Have you ever turned on a television in the morning and saw a test pattern instead of people?

Have you ever put powdered Cool-Aid on your tongue and wondered why it tasted bitter? Ever eat a spoonful of instant chocolate powder and then looked at your tongue? What about Hershey's Cocoa? Ever done that and then rinsed your mouth with water because it tasted bitter?

Do you remember when you needed a can opener to open pop cans or remember when they were made of metal that the average person couldn't crush with their hands? Do you remember when milk only came in glass bottles or paper cartons?

Have you ever heard the rattling of milk bottles early in the morning outside your window and looked out to see a man carrying them in metal baskets or watched him climb back into a truck that he drove while standing up? When you see or hear the words Battle Creek Michigan do you instantly think of cereal?

Have you ever cut off box tops and put them in an envelope to send away for a toy? Were you ever excited when the mailman brought it, only to be disappointed when you saw what it was?

Have you ever been disappointed with the surprise that came in a box of Cracker Jacks?

Do you remember an animated kid with big ears shoving a giant spoon into his mouth after saying "I want my Maypo!" Can you finish this jingle..."You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush..."? Or this theme song from a super hero..."Here I come to save the..."? Did you ever think that a couple of guys named Spin and Marty reminded you of someone you knew who was older than you? Do you even know who they were? Have you ever named a dog after one you watched on television, I mean besides Lassie?

Have you ever pretended to be someone from a television show by dressing like them or acting like them on a playground or in your backyard?

Have you ever hosted a tea-party without serving tea or fed a doll baby with empty baby bottles? If your play-time required the use of weapons did you ever have a bean shooter in your arsenal?

Have you ever shot your own tonsils with a squirt gun? Have you ever destroyed glass bottles and jars with a BB gun or by just throwing rocks at them? Have you ever been yelled at for not putting your dad’s tools back where you found them or for getting into your mother’s make-up case? Ever refused to let someone use your comb because you feared they would leave cooties in it?

Have you ever stood on a sidewalk and watched televisions left on in an appliance store?

Have you ever gotten on a bus and watched nickels and dimes drop into a glass box and wished you had a key for the box? Ever heard a bus driver call out the name of a street and know what he was going to say before he said it? Do you remember when they were all men and they wore hats? Do you remember when the mail man wore a uniform and his hat looked like a policeman's? Do you remember when the cops on the street or in police cars were all men?

With the warmer weather fast approaching I am also reminded of bugs. Have you ever tried to catch honey bees or flies with your bare hands or placed lightening bugs in a jar to make a lantern only to be disappointed that they didn’t put out enough light to see anything but them?

Ever been afraid to get too close to a praying mantis? Have you ever lost a piece of candy and found it the next day covered with ants?

Have you ever felt victorious about swatting a fly with a fly swatter or slapping a mosquito on your arm but felt terrible if you accidentally killed a lady bug or a butterfly? Has your mother ever told you not to scratch a mosquito bite because it would get infected?

Have you ever sprayed your lawn before dusk so you could catch night-crawlers when it got dark? Ever seen two of them seemingly glued together and covered in slime and decided to leave them alone and look for another one?

Has someone ever taken you fishing at night but instead of watching a fishing pole hoping to catch a fish you spent the night collecting wood for a campfire and then stoking it all night? Did a bologna sandwich or a can of soup ever taste better along a riverbank than it did at a dinner table?

I thought so, but wait! There's more! Read on...

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