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Mind Over Matter

Okra: Nature's Snot Locker

Years ago when we lived in the sticks we grew our own veggies, including okra. While admittedly it's an acquired taste (the slime inside will eventually cook out), if you let the pods get no bigger than the first joint of your thumb they can add a tasty texture to soups and stews.

One summer around mid-July we had a bumper crop, and I mentioned to our two young sons that okra will get longer and more wood-like as the season goes on, soon reaching the point they become inedible. At that both my boys got the idea of letting one little okra go, just to see how long it would get.

Summer waxed and waned, and we harvested everything in that garden ... except for that mutant hell-pod. And did it change? Beyond belief. Each day it became more distended and grotesque, until I half-expected a terrified Kevin McCarthy to come up screaming and pounding on our car windows, "You're next!!"

Came October, and a couple days before a predicted killing frost, by mutual agreement we cut the thing at last. By then it was two feet long, as thick as a bratwurst, and covered with spines and knots.

We dried it, and the kids used it as a sword. Read More 
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squirtgun summer

Now that summer's officially halfway over, it's time we talked about the thing that always said summertime to me: the lowly squirtgun (and that's just how we spelled it, all one word).

Growing up in the fifties there wasn't a whole lot of variety to be found when it came to water warfare. You had four basic types, and three of them could be found anywhere: the Buck Rogers ray gun type, the tommy gun (which looked great, but usually broke within the first half-hour of mortal combat), and then the one the cool kids had, the Luger style. Lugers were usually cast in a bright green or yellow, but if you could find a black one, you were literally King of the Street, and all the other kids had to bow at your presence. No matter its hue, the Luger squirtgun had a mean and nasty heft, and filled your hand like it was born there.

But there was a fourth type, deadly in its own way, and as rare as neutronium: the Greenie-Meanie. True to their name, Greenie-Meanies were as green as a lime LifeSaver, but their best feature was their compact size. A Greenie-Meanie could easily be concealed in your palm and then, owing to its hellish design, fired covertly. Hence their scarcity.
Teachers (and their pawns, our parents) made sure Greenie-Meanies were hard to find, as they invariably made the last week of school actually bearable (especially when you could nail the teacher’s pet, stupid old Faye Nicholson, right in the back of her neck from eight feet out). So although the guns were rare, if you found one--and could keep it--even a Luger-bearer would make room for you as you passed.

Nowadays we're civilized, of course. A lad (or lass) brings a Greenie-Meanie to school, it's suspension and counseling and much parental wailing. ‘Cause first, yanno, it's shooting little Marty Welch with a stream of water, then it's parking a nine millimeter parabellum round in his brainpain. As Barney Fife used to say, “We have to nip it! Nip it in the bud!” Read More 
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