Turpentine and sugar, tonic or toxic

Every time the now retired brothers get together they commiserate about their childhood’s annual spring purge for pin worms. Sitting around the table they shake their heads over the teaspoon of turpentine and sugar each had to swallow.

It was a tablespoon of turpentine,” one insisted.

The others scoffed, “It was a teaspoon.”

They all agree it was the most awful thing that their mother made them take. Thankfully, the annual spring purge ended once the family attained indoor plumbing.

Still the memory lingers and one wonders, “How did she ever come up with that idea?”

She didn’t come up with the idea on her own. Turpentine and sugar have a long history as a traditional home remedy for worms. Just type “turpentine and sugar” into Google and the search engine quickly pulls up hundreds of websites.

At least as far back as the 1800s, sugar with a small teaspoon of turpentine received high regard as the best home remedy to purge out any bad elements in the body. It still does if one listens to the advice of one Internet doctor of questionable qualifications. Even that doctor, while praising the mixture emphasizes only one teaspoon and adds a cautionary note that it does not take much to do serious harm to a child. Obviously the doctor read the side of the turpentine bottle, “Poison, do not drink. If consumed call the poison control center.”

For those who believe all the hype about detoxing their body, another website details a five week detox featuring lots of fluids every day and a sprinkle of turpentine over three sugar cubes five days a week. The stomach churns just thinking about it.

Still many consider turpentine good for what ails you; or as is quoted on curezone.org “My grandma used to say ‘if ya cain’t be cured with turpentine, ya probly ain’t worth curin’.” and goes on to say, ”Turpentine and sugar was a sure cure for strep throat and tonsillitis.”

Home remedies follow one rule, “If it’s awful, it must be good medicine.”

During the 1918 influenza plague home remedies included: herbs, groundhog grease, onion poultices, mustard packs, turpentine fumes, smoke from burning straw, orange peel, chamomile tea and zinc painted on the inside of the nose. You took the medicine and then prayed, according to Sandra Opdycke’s book, “The Flu Epidemic of 1918: America’s Experience in the Global Health Crisis”

The brothers thought they suffered alone with their mother’s turpentine cure. They didn’t. It was just one concoction and experience recorded by Charles Bannister on the civilwartalk.com website: “we took catnip tea and sassafras tea. Turpentine and sugar was given for worms and sometimes people dosed straight with turpentine, as in the case of my brother who died of diphtheria. It was the doctor who doped him, and he gave him too much.”

Evidently that doctor never read the information reported in the Yankee New England’s Magazine, “Professionals and laymen caring for persons – found the whiskey functioned as a pain-killing tranquilizer. Its effects were certainly more reliable than many of the homemade cures such as inhaling turpentine fumes, sniffing camphorated vaseline, or lying beneath poultices of garlic and onions. Whiskey was more effective even than the various vaccines that were widely distributed by doctors to cities and military hospitals.”

For the brothers, it didn’t kill them and maybe it cured them. For the rest of us, read the side of the bottle of turpentine, the part that says, “Poison, harmful or fatal if swallowed. Keep out of the reach of children. If ingested … call the Poison Control Center immediately.”

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Test driving for research

Wanna go for a spin in that fancy car and earn some cash?

Some people collect stamps, my son Mert and his wife Sheila collect experiences as research subjects in the greater Detroit area: the original automotive development arena for the country. Car designers have to test their cars, first in the lab and in contained testing grounds and then on the street.

Years ago, Sheila test drove a car with a camera that showed traffic behind the car. She had to tell the researchers riding in the back which side of the car she saw traffic. Round and round a loop of freeway she drove as the researchers turned the camera off and on, varied its angle and perspective to assess the best view.

The initial anxiety of working with a new driver was followed with the monotony of the minutiae of testing. So tedious. One of the researchers fell asleep. With few cars on the road at the time and experiencing the bravado of a young driver, Sheila’s foot pressed further and further down.

The now wide awake researcher gasped as the speedometer hit 90. He begged her, “Please slow down a bit.” He still paid her around $100 for her time.

Driving too fast never was not an issue when Mert agreed to test drive the $100,000 Volvo of the future on the company’s testing ground. He wasn’t in control. The car was. The developer explained how to program the self-driving car’s distance to the car in front of him and advised Mert, “You have to touch the steering wheel every 10 seconds.”

Then for $25 per hour Mert “drove.”

“It was rather fun to drive a $100,000 car without the use of hands or feet when turning a corner on the highway. I just had to set my distance, let go. … and touch the steering wheel intermittently,” he said. The car set the speed, decided when it needed change lanes to avoid tailgaters and kept a safe distance from any cars in front of it.

Being a test driver hardly fits Mert’s usual transportation profile. He rides city buses and drives a company car on a special assignments. Another driving experience tested the capacity of cars to deal with tailgaters. “It was kind of weird (for a driving test,) I was cautioned to leave my hands off the wheel lest it hurt my hands,” he recalled. So he rode/drove along watching the car slowing down and leaving one lane for another in order to let a tailgater go ahead.”

Perhaps his low driving time influenced his experience during a simulated study inside a Honda. “I experienced nausea from speeding along a virtual highway that never ended,” he said with a grimace. In spite of the side effect he says he came away from that research time having learned a technique for dealing with tailgaters when he does drive.

Paid to learn, paid to test drive prototypes of high end cars, not bad for some serious pocket change. Plus, shades of the futuristic car, KITT, in the old TV show “The Knight Rider,” he has also dealt with intelligent bossy cars.

“I have driven a car that could detect traffic lights that were about to change and the car told me to speed up or slow down in order to get through the intersection. Or the car would tell me to stop to avoid arrest.” Not that that was ever an issue. As he explained, “I didn’t have to worry about the police; it was a test track.”

Beyond their collective experiences in automotive research, the two have participated in medical and psychological studies. More about those another time.

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Barbie collection off the shelf into reality

Collector Barbies become real at Christmas

` The yard sale sign screamed, “Stop!” We stopped. I spotted three bins of Barbie dolls in their original boxes from the 1980s and 1990s.

“How cute, this one’s dressed like Little Debbie. And here’s one in a petite pink suit ready to sell Avon.” I lifted each to examine.

The woman seated at the cash box said, “I used to sell Avon. I bought all the Avon Barbies.”

“And kept them very well,” I observed. None of the boxes had any dust, creases or wear. None had been opened. Threads securely held the accessories for Coca Cola Barbie.

I wanted one. I wanted all of them. I did not need any. I bought enough to give one to each of my granddaughters including the ones in high school, college and married with children. And, maybe I bought the Silhouette Barbie just for me. With her swept-up hair and the black accents on pink of the skirt of her strapless evening gown, she would command attention at any ball.

Back home, I placed the dolls in the spare bedroom and looked at them only when I cleaned. A couple granddaughters came to visit and sorted through the dolls carefully kept in their original boxes for 20 years or more.

They sighed over the boxes. “Would you like one?” I asked.

Two curly topped heads nodded. I picked up half a dozen dressed to go shopping or to the beach and let them choose one. Then I helped them release the dolls from their 20 year prison of plastic and paper.

I did not offer Barbies in formals. No way would I let Barbie’s magic night at the ball end with a pumpkin. At least not until Christmas when I reconsidered, took a deep breath and decided it was time to give them to granddaughters young enough to play with dolls.

At the Christmas reunion, I announced, “okay, take turns and choose a doll.” They did and carried boxed dolls back to their parents. The two year old tugged on her Little Miss Debbie doll. She yanked off the hat. Her mother took the box and began loosening the wires and threads of decades.

Across the room I heard, “Don’t you want to keep it in the box?”

The nine-year-old shook her head “No.” She wanted to play with the doll.

The oldest of the oldest doll aged granddaughters got to choose two dolls. “I want this one as a girlfriend for my brother’s GI Joe action figure Brad,” she said picking up a doll wearing dressy casual attire. Her brother grinned. Brad needed a date.

For her second choice, she picked up Silhouette Barbie. I crossed my fingers. At nearly 10, surely she would keep the regal doll intact.

She sat down, opened the flap covering the sheet of plastic keeping the doll dust free and began pulling on the cardboard. “Can you help?” she asked. And the last of the dolls, became real after 25 years. Around the room, little people took off the doll’s shoes, tugged at the dresses or outfits, combed synthetic hair and began losing accessories.

I watched and chanted to myself, “Dolls are designed for play, not display.”

Holding their dolls, the girls gathered at the coffee table and played. “Let’s pretend that …”

Accompanied by GI Joe Brad’s new girlfriend, Silhouette Barbie also arrived at the play party. She arrived without shoes, her hair tousled by a hurricane and her gown askew.

The Avon lady will never know that her dolls escaped the cycle of collection, and I will cherish the memory forever.

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Some work while others play

The winds of winter whipped around our car one Christmas decades ago as we traveled to visit family. The gas gauge edged toward empty. We saw one darkened station after another. Silent anxiety filled the car until a well lit station welcomed us. Gratefully, we pulled up to a pump. Since this happened before self service gas stations, an attendant strolled up to the window and asked, “Ethel or regular? How much? Do you need your oil checked?”

“Fill it up with regular,” my husband said.

We could have stayed warm and dry in the car, except all the kids needed a break. As the gas flowed, my husband chatted with the woman washing the windshield, “We thought we would run out of gas before we saw your lights. Everyone else is closed for Christmas. Why aren’t you? Don’t you want to be home with your family?”

She reached across the car to swipe the road grime off the windshield before she answered, “Home with the family? My whole family is here today. This is how we are spending Christmas.”

We thanked her for the gift of time on the one day when most want to stay home.

That was then, this is now and still Somebody has to work during the holidays while friends and family feast, open presents and attend parties. To all those Somebodies out there: Thank You. Your time of service made this year’s holiday possible.

First, a thanks to all the first responders: the hard working men and women we never want to see and especially so from Christmas to New Years. While others party, police officers and county sheriffs clock in hoping to spend a boring shift just cruising the streets. At the Emergency Room, EMTS check their supplies and pray that no one desperately needs their services. While kids pull out the fire crackers and sparklers, firemen check their equipment, clean the truck and remind folks to remember the safety rules.

Second, a thanks for those whose company or institution must be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words places such as hospitals and nursing homes where disease, disability or the symptoms of age require supervision and assistance through the night and day. Or a factory that needs a crew to keep them running without stopping.

Before I retired as a newspaper reporter, more than one holiday I unlocked the empty office to sit in a stone quiet office and write a story, download a picture to the computer or lay out pages. While others prepared to party, I heard the printing crew enter the press room to prepare the press to print. A skeleton crew suffices for some departments at the newspaper, but not for deliveries. Every carrier must come every night, pick up their papers and drive through the county delivering papers before the sun rises even if it is a holiday break for their customers.

Third, a huge note of appreciation to the retail workers of the past six weeks: the clerks and stockers who dealt with a welcome increase of customers looking for the perfect gift or sought favorite holiday foods. Hundreds of department store and grocery store employees have kept the shelves stocked, the shopping cars corralled, the aisles tidy and the cash registers open. As shoppers, we contend with the crowds and can leave as soon as we finish or get tired. The store employees must return each day for a month-long marathon of holiday shoppers.

To all of these, and many others unmentioned, thank you for making our holiday bright.

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Santa Claus stories from the past

“We knew Santa had come when we could smell the apples and oranges,” all the retirees agreed at a holiday gathering. Then, as now, children believed in Santa – for a while.

“I believed in Santa for a long time. Then I got a hint he might not be real, so I looked around for presents. I found them hidden way back under the bed. I found a large doll. I knew it would be mine. When my friend came over I asked her, ‘do you want to see my doll?’ Of course she did. We crawled under the bed, pulled out the doll and looked at it before returning it to its hiding place.”

It was a great secret to share with a best friend until the friend told Beth’s mother, “Beth showed me her doll.”

“My mother was so angry, she gave her a spanking for getting into the presents. I never did like that girl so very much after she told on me to my mother,” Beth said.

Peggy said, “My mother and sisters and I would drive down to my grandparents in Louisiana for Christmas. My mother would pack the presents in the trunk of the car and then pack in our suitcases so the gifts were out of sight. One year I was still trying to act as if I believed in Santa. Well, in the middle of the woods we got a flat tire. My mom said ‘Peggy you take your sisters up the road to the woods for a while.’”

Peggy did not exactly understand, but she took her sisters for a walk in the woods.

“I had to take them way ahead to the woods so that my mother could unload the presents and get the tire. No one came to help my mother. Evidently she managed to unpack the trunk, haul out the tire and change it, then repack everything before we went on our way.” Her little sisters never knew everything done to sustain the myth of Santa for another year.

At least one families had a very different tradition, according to Joe who told about his friend’s family. “That family lived in a house with a dog trot (an open hallway between the two sets of rooms). Every year when they heard Santa, they would go to the end of the dog trot and try to shoot him down.”

“There would be a noise on the roof and the sound of a gunshot. Every year all that fell was Santa’s bag of presents for the children in the house. The gifts would fall at the end of the dog trot. The parents kept up the image and made sure the kids would see a trail of footprints running away from the house and over the border fence with packages spilled along the way.”

One year Joe’s friend told him, “I am going to stay awake and wait for Santa.”

The friend’s dad said he would wait up with him. Before bed, the dad set up a fish line from the bed to the dogtrot where he tied to pots and pan to let them know when Santa arrived.

The friend told Joe that after dark he heard the noise. Son and father ran to the end of the dogtrot to shoot down Santa. Joe shook his head, “They just weren’t right in that home.”

Right or not, they enjoyed the toys dropped at the end of the dogtrot.

Whether you welcome Santa or not, have oranges and apples or not, may your Christmas be merry.

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Sam and GI Joe

The following story came to me from St. Louis where seven-year-old Sam lives.

“I woke up at the bottom of a pile of discards. The touch of a woman’s hand woke me when she grabbed and hauled me to a rescue cart. I would survive. I may have lost contact with my buddies from the past, but that day I had hope for the future.

“She took my picture and searched the Internet for someone with my name. Captain Brad Armbruster, Ace GI Joe. She read information regarding the scar on my face which I would never have told her. I don’t like to talk about my past battles.”

“A charming child leaned over her shoulder, looked at me and touched my buzz haircut. ‘It’s fuzzy. He looks really old.’

“’He does?’ the lady said looking at me thoughtfully. She tucked me into her car, took me home and forgot about me. For a couple weeks, I drifted in and out of awareness until she lifted me, ‘It’s time you met Sam. He will know what you need.’

“Sam. A good solid, name for a fellow warrior. Dressed for combat in my black boots, olive green jump suit and dog tags, I settled back to meet Sam. The moment that woman handed me to Sam, I felt life flowing through me. Sam had plans for me.

“First, he assessed me, ‘He has burns. He needs a shower.’ He pulled off my boots, stripped off my jump suit and found my dog tags. ‘What are these, Grandma?’ he asked the woman.

“’Dog tags. Soldiers have to wear them all the time in case they are injured or killed so the people who find them know who the person is. They have his name and rank on it.’

“’Oh,’ he bent over and studied the tags. ‘It says his name is Brad. He’s a Captain.’

“’He looked at my jump suit.’

“’What does Ace mean?’

“’The best, the top of the line.’

“’He’s the best? Ace,’ he smiled proudly. ‘And he has abs,’ he announced as proud of them as I was.

That Sam, he kept me busy all day. He said because of my burns, I needed to take a shower. I went in and out of the shower all day. He took my clothes off and pulled them on maybe a dozen times that first day. He studied the holes in my feet and covered them up with my boots.

“’He needs a breathing mask,’ Sam repeatedly told his grandmother.

“’Yes, he does,’ she agreed, but she didn’t do anything. Not one thing. Sam did it all. He went over to his supply drawer, pulled out brown pipe cleaners and created the breathing mask I needed for when I flew high in a plane.

“’He is supposed to have a knife in this pocket,’ he said pointing to the loop on the cuff of my jumpsuit.

“’Yes, that’s for a knife,’ she agreed.

Sam went to the supply cupboard. He knew I could not go into combat without a knife. He pulled out grey and white pipe cleaners, twisted the white into a point and wrapped a bit of gray pipe cleaner to form a handle. He knew that my hands itched to hold a weapon. He found a sword and a small GI Joe Jeep he knew must be mine. It bore my name.

“The lady rescued me from the discards but Sam gave me a renewed purpose with showers, weapons and a breathing mask. With his imagination, that boy made me real again. Thank you, Sam. You’re the best.”

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The world from Henry’s viewpoint

We almost missed Turkey Day fun with four-year-old Henry and his big sister Sophie and brother Henry. The stomach bug snagged him out of circulation as we approached their house. “He is sick,” his mom warned us

“We’ll come later.” While we waited we found and bought a used child’s train set, just right for Henry who announced a week before Turkey Day, “I’m glad I am not a turkey. Aliens eat turkeys.”

No one knows where that fact of life originated. Henry just knows things. Like the day he told his mother, “That’s my bear.”

She asked, “Did you get it today?”

“No, tomorrow, when I was a baby.”

He may not have been born tomorrow but today he already embraces his mother’s penchant for the modern music she frequently listens to in the car with Henry as they run errands and pick up siblings. Sophie prefers Disney Radio and recently asked her mom, “Would you turn off the Rock and Roll station and switch to Disney.?”

From his car seat in the back, Henry protested, “I want rock ‘n’ roll!” He even prefers it for his bedtime lullaby, according to his mom’s Facebook post.

His culinary tastes however remain locked in typical kid preferences. Recently, his mom made oriental food. She loved it. Sam devoured two bowls. Henry tried it and put his fork down. Sophie took one taste, went to the cupboard and made mac and cheese to share with Henry.

She knows what he likes just as I know he likes floor puzzles. So with an hour before church I said, “I have a puzzle. Do you want to do it?” He nodded and danced eagerly around me as I found it and laid it on the floor. Grandpa found a low seat and began sorting, “Look for these with the straight sides,” he told Henry.

For half an hour the two studied the pieces and twisted them around to find the perfect fit.

While they laid out puzzle, Sophie pulled out her hand sewing. She took a yard of fabric and chopped out a square to make a doll pillow. She stabbed the needle along the edges with galloping stitches, turned it inside out, stuffed it and closed it with a puckered seam. She smiled at her finished product and chopped out a larger piece of fabric to make a doll mattress – just like her grandma at that age.

Puzzle finished, Henry found a plastic sword and swished it at Sam asking, “You wanna fight?” as he feinted left and right. Naturally, within minutes Henry whacked Sam hard and the sword transferred into Momma’s hand. It will happen again. If it had been warm outside, both would have found sticks to drag around and use as swords until one or the other got hurt.

It was definitely time for an inside toy. I pulled out the battery operated toy train with its heap of plastic tracks. Henry and Sam eagerly plopped down with Grandpa and began building a complex layout of a circle inside an oval with hand switches at the junctions. Henry set the train on the track and turned it on.

Sam moved the track switch as the train approached.

“No, Sam! Not that way.” Henry protested. Sam moved the switch again. Grandpa established a “take turns” rule.

We had to leave the next day, the train didn’t. His mom sent a picture of him with the track, “He is happy you left this here.” And happy, I’m sure, to be four and alone with the track while Sam goes to school.

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Every festival needs a little cotton candy

Digging through closets for games and equipment for the church festival her first year as the festival coordinator, Sharon pulled out a cotton candy machine and a bag of mostly unused cotton candy sugar. She had no idea how to use it, and the people who might know how to use it were not there.

She indicated the machine to a couple guys and asked them to move it to the festival area. “I think someone who knows how to use it will be here after a while.”

“Aww, we can figure it out.” The guys confidently picked up the unit, carried it outside, assembled the parts as best they could and turned on the machine.

Wisps of cotton candy blew up and around their heads and scattered across the parking lot. “It looked like they had blown pink insulation around,” Sharon laughed.

“I don’t think that’s right,” she told them. “I think that wire mesh goes on the inside, not the outside.”

The guys did not agree. “It’s a bit windy out here. We just need to get it under control. Maybe we need to bring the drum surround out to stop the cotton candy.”

“We are not bringing that out here and messing it up. I think the mesh goes on the inside.”

The guys did not agree. Cotton candy continued to fly everywhere. They only had a couple sticks of cotton candy ready for the horde of kids expected within the hour. The guys continued to twist the sticks as cotton candy settled on their heads, faces and clothes.

Finally Sharon said, “Stop a minute. Let’s find a YouTube video.”

They turned off the machine, found a YouTube video and studied it. The mesh did go on the inside of the bowl of the cotton candy machine.

They switched the mesh. The machine worked much better. They began making cotton candy, and this time, it mostly stayed inside the big bowl. Some still floated to their arms and coats and up to the sky. The men began making bags of cotton candy for the kids as Sharon left to check on other preparations.

She returned to find a heap of bags of cotton candy.

“I don’t think we need anymore. You guys can stop,” she said.

“Aww, but they might need more,” said a masculine voice beneath the wisps of cotton candy covering his hair, his eyebrows and the sleeves of his coat.

The guys did not want to stop. Nor did they seem to want to give cotton candy to any of the children from their stockpile of bags stuffed in coolers and tubs and heaped on the table.

Finally, an hour or so into the festival, she insisted, “I think we have enough.”

It took the guys a minute to realize they could turn off the machine and should start passing out cotton candy. They handed it all out. They would have happily made more but the festival ended.

“They had just enough cotton candy for the kids that night,” Sharon said.

One of the cotton candy making men had arrived wearing a cowboy hat that had slowly changed into a pink fur lined hat – perfect for Mardi Gras,

The two went inside to clean up. Even though they cleaned off mounds of cotton candy, they came out with cotton candy still clinging to their shoulders and elbows.

Jacob, Sharon’s husband, motioned for one of the men to come to him. Jacob shook his hand, leaned over, licked his sleeve and said, “You are so sweet. Thank you.”

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First job etches permanent mark

In 1959 working as a pickler cleaning brass fittings for use in the production of thermostats may not have been the dirtiest job ever, but my husband’s first full time job out of high school definitely left an impression on him.

As a pickler he said, “I cleaned corrosion from the brass fittings before they were soldered. It was a day time job. I earned my first real money – $1.55 an hour,” he said.

The supervisor really wanted me to stay. He often came over asked me ‘is there anything we need to get you?’ They wanted to make it comfortable for me to be there.” He laughed. “People did not like that job. They would bid off as soon as they could.”

During the brief three months he worked as a pickler, he received a nickel an hour pay increase to encourage him to stay and work the job nobody wanted.

The despicable job used a heavy metal bucket. “It weighed about 15, maybe 20, pounds. The steel buckets were woven of probably an eighth-inch steel with leads every half inch for the brass fittings for the heating and cooling units. I would load them up and dunk them in the caustic acid.”

He walked a circuit from one dunking container to another. “I would dunk them into a pit and leave them there for a certain period of time. Take it out, dunk it into water, lift it out and put it into a neutralizing chemical. All day long I was putting in and taking out these heavy buckets of metal. Then I had to put the fittings on a tray, blow them dry, take them from there and put them in barrels for processing. I did that all day long. Every activity was timed. I had to keep going from one bucket to another, all day, switching each batch to the next phase. I gained a lot of strength doing that. I could do 25 push-ups easily by the time I quit.”

“I wore rubber gloves and a heavy rubber apron to keep the acid from getting onto me. Every week I changed out the acid. I carried it in a five gallon bucket. I went out back, opened a lid in the ground and dumped the used acid into the tank beneath it.”

“And the fumes! The fumes were there all the time. The fumes would eat the skin from your nose if you worked the job long enough. There was a vent or a hood over it all but no mask was provided or even suggested to be worn.”

“I didn’t stay there long enough for the fumes to eat at my nose, but there were people who said it would over time.”

Instead he quickly found a second full time job, one more appealing to him: building cabinet frames in a woodworking shop. Eventually he settled into his life-time career of quality control in the polymer and carbon black industries.

Many years later another company bought out the thermostat plant and production moved away, leaving the facility dormant. Sixty years after his three month stint as a pickler, he heard that the nearby community had once considered building a football field on the site where the plant once stood. It was the perfect location until soil studies revealed the extent of the contamination from the production process and its waste disposal.

Even in 1959, freshly hired picklers quickly realized cleaning brass was dangerous, dirty work and found safer jobs. They left; the company stayed and permanently etched its mark in the earth.

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One pair of stinky ole sneakers

My husband came in from the late summer heat and slumped onto the couch exhausted from a morning of yard work.

He began untying his grungy, battle scarred work sneakers. He sat them neatly beside the couch. I could smell them clear across the room.

“What is that smell?” I asked.

He sniffed and looked down at the sneaker. “The yard is wet. It’s the sneakers.”

“Well take those sneakers outside. They reek! And they look awful. Completely worn out.”

“I just wear them for yard work.”

“We can afford a new pair of sneakers. Those stink!”

He picked up the stinky sneakers and studied the brown creases on the formerly white tennis shoes.

“I’ll throw them away.” He picked up the sneakers and headed for the garbage bin.

“No, wait. Put them outside the door for now. I want to take a picture and see if someone really is crazy enough to buy them off Ebay.”

It would only take a couple seconds to try duplicating the story of a seller who made over $4,000 selling smelly sneakers.

I lined up a white sheet, artistically arranged the work worn sneakers, snapped a couple photos and listed: “Stinky ole worn out men’s sneakers size 10.5 medium.” They did have a kind of quaint look about them in the picture, so I added, “art, craft and photography.” Some artistically minded soul might think they spoke volumes about hard labor, of a summer of mowing, extensive house maintenance and hauling a mountain of debris out to the burning pile. A hard working person had worn those sneakers.

They really needed to go in the trash bin, but if someone actually wanted to buy worn out shoes, we would use the cash to buy a new pair.

And then we had to pack to visit all the folks we had not seen while he slaved away residing the house this summer. The shoes stayed on our steps, in the sunshine and rain while we were traveled.

Midway through our trip an Ebay shopper sent me a question, “How bad do the sneakers smell? What do they smell like?’

Really? You want to know, I thought.

I realized I could not exactly remember so I responded, “something like old sweat, only really ripe after having walked through a wet yard. But I am away from home and can’t sniff to verify the odor.”

We came home to a clean, fresh smelling house. Then I stepped outside and saw the sneakers. I had forgotten the query. I thought the shopper had as well until they asked, “Are these still being worn?”

“No. We left them outside for a month and the smell of old sweat diminished greatly. I could soak them a while and see if the room drenching smell returns. LOL,” I responded.

“Ok, don’t post this comment on eBay, but you have severely diminished the value of the shoes. LOL,” the former prospective buyer wrote.

“I know, but I simply could not stand the smell of them anymore.”

“I respect that you have standards,” the invisible shopper concluded the conversation.

I shared the emails with my husband. He shook his head. “I can’t fathom why anyone would want them.”

“Where are the sneakers anyway?” I asked him.

He found them about 10 feet away from me. No smell. The sun had worked its magic.

“Just throw them away,” I said.

“No, they don’t smell now. I’ll wear them, get them stinking again and then we can sell them.” He triumphantly reclaimed the sneakers he never had wanted to trash in the first place.

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