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Opinions

Walkin'

Household pests

I’ve killed many a musca domestica, aka house fly, in my day.
As a child visiting Wisconsin, one of my favorite barn chores was poisoning the little buggers. Grandma had an old-fashioned pump sprayer, which she filled, I’m guessing, with a capful of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, aka DDT, and water. This was long before we knew that the substance was a scourge to birds, especially ones high on the food chain like hawks and eagles. So spray I did, pumping clouds of toxic vapor in the air.

Food for Thought

Wet soap

How many jokes or anecdotes have you heard about the difficulty of holding onto a wet bar of soap? I always supposed that was one of the reasons for the invention of soap-on-a-rope. All the new shower gels and body washes have nearly made that, and the soap dish itself, obsolete, but I think they have quite a long way to go before reaching perfection.

Walkin'

Aunt Izzy’s table

What I remember most about Aunt Izzy, my mother’s twin sister, is eating dinner at her table.
Our family, the city slickers from Chicago, would visit her family, the farm folk, at least twice a year. Izzy had seven children with husband Ray, and Mom and Dad added five to make an even dozen. Not that there’d be 12 kids at a meal. By the time the younger ones arrived, the older ones had moved out, but there might be eight or more sitting knee to knee, stomachs growling. Somehow she managed to fit us all in and make everyone feel welcome to eat to their heart’s content.

Food For Thought

Writing seasonal columns

Coming up with a column for a particular season or a specific holiday seems like a no-brainer to most people. “How simple,” they say, “you don’t have to thrash around looking for a topic to write about.” After close to 30 years of coming up with columns about New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and a few assorted other days, I can’t help repeating myself.

Walkin'

What about my gun rights?

I’ve been offered the sale of a handgun three times.
The first was in the early 1980s when I lived in North Twin View Heights, a housing development outside of Solon.
I was having breakfast at the nearby Vern’s Lakeside Cafe, a small restaurant run out of a converted mobile home. The sign out front boasted hot food and fresh bait. Inside, the décor gave new meaning to the expression “greasy spoon.” Vern lived in the trailer with his wife and half-dozen children who often ran about half-dressed or in diapers needing changing.

Food For Thought

Language changes

I marvel, almost daily, at the complexity and simplicity of our language. It seems to be a sort of magic that all the books, newspapers, movie scripts, poems, love letters and grocery lists are simply various combinations of those twenty-six little symbols that make up our alphabet. Even with the abuses and misuses, they seem to manage to communicate our thoughts amazingly well.

Food for Thought

The orphan trains

My friend and fellow writer Ethel Barker started out to write a novel, for young adult readers, about a piece of Iowa history that had fascinated her for years. Titled “For the Love of Pete,” the story is about three young children who were transported from New York City to the Midwest in an effort to give them a better chance in life. Commonly known as “orphan trains,” though a good many of the children were not technically orphans, the trains transported over 200,000 children from the slums of New York to 45 states, where they were fostered or adopted by families.

Walkin'

Strangers on the beach

Sabra and I have been to the resort area of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, several times. We get there by flying from the Cedar Rapids airport, about a dozen miles from our house. I say we’re going to the land of the endless buffet because not only can you eat nearly around the clock under the all-inclusive package, but also the variety of food seems to go on into infinity as the workers switch out one sumptuous dish for another.

Food for Thought

Pinocchio’s old age

I’ve told you something about my Walt Disney Pinocchio doll before. He was the star of the first movie I remember seeing, and he appeared in all his wooden-headed and bow-tied splendor under my Christmas tree that December. He’s been part of my holiday tradition for many, many Christmases since then, and sits, grinning, under the twinkle lights and tinsel until time to take the tree down sometime in January.

Walkin'

A brush with DMWU

“Please pull your mule over to the side of the road,” the voice came to us loud and clear, polite yet firm, from a North Liberty Police squad car behind us.
It was a late summer afternoon, Sabra and I were on our way to Bob’s Place, a tavern in North Liberty about two miles from our home. Sabra was riding Dan, the one-eyed mule, and I was leading Buzz, my beloved dog of many years. We adopted Dan a year earlier, and he proved to be a great addition to the family.

Food For Thought

Exorcising the incubus

The closest synonym for the word “incubus” is “burden” and there is a wide range of definitions to describe it as well. These range all the way from “millstone” to “evil spirit” and crop up in fairy tales and legends more often than in ordinary conversation.

Walkin'

Jock strap cups

Dan-the-one-eyed-mule showed up in style at our acreage, standing tall and placid in the back of an old Chevy pickup.
At the wheel was Gale, a 78-year old retired farmer fairly well known in the area for his quick wit and friendly nature. Locals will know where he lives even if they don’t know him personally when I describe his house. It’s the one with a fire hydrant and a tree stump standing about 10 feet apart in the front yard. A sign by the hydrant reads “city dogs” and the one by the stump, “country dogs.”