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JOURNAL

Mysteries

My son is a Mother.

The Singer Remembers

Personal Secrets

Can

Paskha in Crete

From “APRIL” Part 2

NOSY

In Accordance with the Promise and the Law

Then . . . And Now . . .



Finally, the English Edition!
Third Wish
A NOVEL IN FIVE PARTS

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May 11, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The Middle of May, 2015
Storms have come and gone, leaving behind clear skies, warm days,
cool nights – and the greenest landscape I can ever remember in May.

“I’m sick and tired of this and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Familiar sentence?
That’s the opening line to a common drama when the eggplant has hit the fan, and the resulting rant gets unloaded.
Seldom do I get up on a soapbox or pound the table, but I’m sick and tired of something and I’m not going to take it anymore.
Here comes the rant:

Never, ever in my life have I been given flowers on Father’s Day. Never.
Think about it. Mother’s Day equals flowers.
Father’s Day equals what? Mostly useless tokens of official affection.
Why not flowers? Why not?
I like flowers. I give flowers to other people all the time. I love to arrange flowers – to plant them in my yard and place them on my table.
There are a lot of men like me – maybe your Dad, too?
Pass the word – fathers deserve flowers - on Father’s Day.
Not on their casket when they die, dammit, but while they’re still alive.
And, head’s up, Father’s Day is June 21 – there’s a month to think about this and make an action plan.

Just do it!

MYSTERIES

The magazine, Popular Science, has just published an edition on the theme of “100 Mysteries of Science Explained.”
The title was a little deceptive because most of the mysteries are not, in fact, explained. Black holes, dark matter, dark energy,
where the Mayas went and the purpose of Stonehenge, etc, etc.
I bought the magazine – I like mysteries.
So mystery has been on my mind for several days.
As I walked through downtown Moab on Saturday I encountered more local, down-to-earth, and overwhelming evidence of mysteries I’ve often contemplated.
Ones not mentioned in Popular Science.

Several years ago I wrote an essay on the subject.
Here’s an update:

Ask anybody to spell camouflage. Give them three tries.
Watch what they do with their eyes and hands while they struggle.
Funny.
Not that you or I could have done any better.
That’s why we just settle for camo - as I will as this essay continues.

Notice the foot traffic in your neighborhood.
Camo is fashionable.
Cargo shorts, baseball caps, T-shirts, and backpacks are most notable.
In Moab, where people come to get out into the wild country,
camo is the overwhelming choice of costume – for all ages.

Ask anyone wearing camo why they choose to wear it.
Watch what they do with their eyes and hands while they struggle.
Funny.
Despite what they say, mostly they are uncertain.
They don’t really know.

In nature camouflage is a universal way of avoiding being seen and/or eaten.
It’s a method of crypsis or disambiguation - an anti-predator adaption.

In the late 18th century European military experts discovered camo.
Armies noticed that when soldiers were wearing bright red white and blue uniforms, with shiny brass accessories and ostrich plumes waving from a high hat made out of bearskin - they could be seen - and shot en masse.
Less visible would be better.
Camo became standard for military purposes.

Now the notion has evolved through stages to an absurd conclusion. Consider the photographs you’ve seen of an American infantryman in full combat gear on patrol in Afghanistan.
What’s this? A space invader just dropped in from Venus?
Can you see him? How can you not?

On the other hand, consider his enemy - bearded Taliban fighters in baggy shirts and pants, wearing sandals and a felt hat. Can you pick one out of a crowd? No, they look like everybody else. Afghani camouflage.

In Utah, where I live in the fall, hunters wear camo so that deer and turkeys, can’t see them. But I’ve hit deer and turkeys on the highway while going 50 miles an hour in my red car with my horn blowing. Who needs camo?
I could see the deer – they were wearing camo.
Surely they could see me.

In contemporary urban social fashion, camo has become an enantiodrome.
A word that refers to the opposite of its standard meaning.
One wears camo so that one will be seen and noticed.
Why? Is it because camo identifies one with hunting or warfare - an image involving death and violence?
Is it because camo is the uniform of those who are dangerous and combat-ready? Do the young wear it as a way to annoy and confuse the old? Is it short-hand for macho? And what are women telling me when they wear camo?

I have questions, but not good answers – mysterious.

And when I ask the camo wearers, their replies are pretty vague.
One thing they often say: It’s just . . . well . . . cool.

Camo is ubiquitous. Besides cargo pants, one can buy boxer shorts, bras and panties and thongs, bathing suits, night gowns, sheets and blankets, wall paper, table linen, and full baby gear - diaper covers, booties, caps, pajamas, and baby bottles. That’s just a small part of the list - check an on-line source to be surprised and amazed.
And . . . get this: camo comes in pink - for girls!

Contemporary camo is meant to send at least this message:
Look at me! Notice me!

Hold that thought.
While I tell you about leopards and snakes and alligators.
More mystery.

A leopard is a meat-eating feline predator, weighing up to 200 pounds. It can run 35 miles an hour, hunts mostly at night, and is known for its stealth and opportunistic hunting. It has a massive skull and powerful jaw muscles. The leopard silently stalks its prey, pounces and strangles it with a bite to the throat. The leopard, a skilled climber, carries the prey up into a tree and eats it. This cat is capable of carrying and eating an animal three times its own weight. Its usual diet consists of antelope and monkeys, but it will eat just about anything - dung beetles, rodents, snakes, birds, fish.
A leopard will attack and kill its own species, including its young.

With those facts in mind, look around.
Notice any leopard skin?
Thumb through the women’s fashion magazines.
Leopard skin has been worn for a long time, but this year it’s hot stuff once again.

Recently, I walked through the women’s shoe department of Nordstrom’s department store in Salt Lake City.
Leopard skin is truly back in fashion.
Especially as part of black leather high heels with buckles and studs and steel toes.
The shoes resemble attire associated with sado-masochism and bondage.

(Should children be allowed to see this stuff - what if they ask about it? How will you explain why Mommy would really like a pair of these shoes?)

Almost as ubiquitous are clothes and underwear and shoes with patterns imitating the skins of snakes and reptiles - cobras, pythons, and alligators – and leopard skin, of course.
Most of us are scared to death of snakes and alligators.
For good reason.
But there it is - handbags with matching shoes - cowboy boots – belts, and scarves..
The reptile thing is another example of an enantiodrome.
Look at me!

Ask any woman wearing leopard skin why they chose to wear it.
Ask: What’s the message you want to convey?
How shall I think of you?
Watch what they do with their eyes and hands while they struggle.
Funny.
The most common response is that leopard skin is sexy . . .

(Go back and read the description of a leopard and its lifestyle.)
Really?

Now, lest you think I’m driving toward some smirky conclusions about the idiocy of the other members of the race, I shall confess.

Last year I ordered a camouflage bathrobe from Cabella’s, the outdoor store. In the bushy tree design.
A jumbled pattern of brown bark, green leaves, grey and black shadows.
Why?
Not only did it bear the stains of coffee and breakfast but it hid the ashes and burn marks of the fallout from my pipe.
“Nobody will notice,” I thought.
“And . . . it will look cool.”

My wife didn’t think so.
I knew she was thinking that she didn’t know where I was most of
the time, and the camo robe only made things worse.
So I gave it to a visiting friend.
He disappeared.
I haven’t seen him since. . .

I already own a camo ghille suit - a net outfit with leaves and bushes sewn on - covers one’s whole body - head and hands and feet. I bought it for Halloween, but if I wear it out in the yard and lie down under a tree and take a nap nobody will know where I am.
But it’s no good wearing it in the house – it sheds.

My wife owns . . . let’s just say several items of leopard skin print lingerie. When she wears it she rings my gong. And if she wants to bite me on the neck and drag me upstairs . . . well . . . never mind.
It’s . . . just sexy . . . maybe even a little . . . slutty . . .
So? That’s the idea.
And I don’t care.
Even if I can’t explain it, I get the message, and I’m with the program.

Still, I do wonder.
Why, in our sophisticated, educated, evolved state - here in the beginning of the 21st century - with cell phones and e-mail and energy drinks - why do we wear primitive clothing - camo, leopard skin, and reptile hides?

What are we trying to tell each other? What’s the message?
Do we know what this is about, or is it one more example of the fact that we still don’t know entirely who we are or what the hell we’re doing?

I noticed several young women in Moab who had put the whole package together: Camo baseball hat, leopard-skin patterned
blouse, with leopard-skin patterned underwear peeking out here and there, camo, cargo pants, and gold flip flops that exposed very decorative toe nails.
I wanted to shout:  I see you, I believe you are dangerous and sexy. You’re driving me crazy!” But I didn’t.

I met a lady friend I know, and unloaded my thoughts on her.
She smiled.
“My husband is wearing leopard skin boxer shorts,” she said.
“What do you make of that?”
And I thought – maybe I should get a pair . . .”
The mystery is unending – might as well join it.

There.
You have what’s been tumbling around in my head this week, while reading about cosmic mysteries.
Well, at least you know how to spell camouflage now and know a few new polysyllabic words with which to impress your friends and family.

So. What are you thinking? Do you have an answer?
Why do we - maybe even you - wear camo, leopard skin, and reptile hides?
If I watched what you do with your eyes and hands while you struggle with an answer, would I laugh?

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

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May 07, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Early May, 2015
Five days of stormy weather – and more to come.

MY SON IS A MOTHER.

That’s the first sentence in an essay I wrote many years ago - when my second son,
Hunter, had his first child, Sarah, who was one year old at the time.
The full essay was first published in my second book, IT WAS ON FIRE WHEN I LAY DOWN ON IT.
Now that son is a grandmother – his first grandchild, Lucy Belle, is one year old.

As another Mother’s Day approaches, I thought I’d look back and review what I
said to him, and see if my thoughts from back then still apply or need updating.

I called him a “Mother” in that he reflected the spirit of New Parenthood.
Equal rights and equal responsibility.
He did all the things that, once upon a time, mostly mothers did.
He fed, cleaned and dressed, nurtured, accepted, approved, encouraged, protected, comforted, and dearly loved the little girl in his arms and heart.
I admired him for taking his place in the life of his child.
He was good at being a Mother.

Here’s the list of observational advice I gave Hunter, with revisions – they apply to grand-motherhood as well:

1. Children are not pets.

2. The life they actually live and the life you perceive them to be living is not the same life.

3. Don’t take what your children do and say too personally.

4. Don’t keep scorecards on them – a short memory is useful.

5. Dirt and mess are a breeding ground for well-being.

6. Stay out of their rooms after puberty.

7. Stay out of their friendships and love-life unless invited in.

8. Don’t worry that they never seem to listen to what you say – worry that they are always watching what you do.

9. Learn from them, they have much to teach you.

10. Love them long – let them go early.

Finally, a footnote:
You will never really know for sure what kind of parent you were or if you did it right or wrong. Never.
And you will worry about this and them as long as you live.
But when your children have children, and you watch them do what they do,
you will have part of an answer.

My son is a fine mother and grandmother – I’m still proud of him – his kids are
an admirable answer to what kind of parent he was and is.

As I write this, Mother’s Day is three days away.
I should send my son, the mother and grandmother, a card and flowers.
But he’s in London on business as I write.
So I’ll just send him this . . .

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

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May 03, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
First week of May, 2015 – full moon tonight.
Jupiter is the evening star
Weatherman calls for a week of thunderstorms and lightning – Yes!

THE SINGER REMEMBERS

A man I know well has a head-event that occurs every May.
Not a dream while asleep, or day-dream, or hallucination.
Call it a burst of a stream of consciousness - brought on by the smell of freshly mown grass.

It’s happened so regularly that the phantasy has become a special kind of reality.
The memory of something that never really happened.
He becomes nostalgic for what he never experienced - except over in the fair land of Could-Have-Been.

Here’s the story:

When he went off to college, the first official event he attended was the Freshman Convocation in the school auditorium – the first week of September.
It was a small, mid-western, liberal Arts institution – 500 in the Freshman Class.
He walked to the meeting across campus with strangers – across the newly mown green grass in the fading light of a lovely end-of-summer day.

He sat with his fellow newbies – facing a stage, where sat the school dignitaries -
the President, the College Dean, and another guy-in-a-tie.
The President gave a short blah-blah-blah welcoming speech.
So did the Dean of Students.

Then the other guy-in-the-tie got up and introduced himself.
Turns out he was the Director of the music program at the college.
“It’s the President’s 65th birthday,” he declared, “And I ask you to join me in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
We did that – with cautious but good-willed enthusiasm.

While we sang, an assortment of other students ambled onto the stage, and sat down on some bleacher-like risers behind the dignitaries.
They seemed like us – they wore the college don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass look –
flip-flops or running shoes, jeans, T-shirts, and baseball caps on backwards.
Back packs, water bottles, and blasé expressions that said “whatever.”

The Dean of Music thanked us for singing a tribute to the President.
He asked how many of us thought of ourselves as singers.
A very few hands went up.
Then he asked how many of us thought we were not singers?
Laughter – most hands.
“That’s odd,” he said. “You just sang. I didn’t see anybody not singing.” Embarrassed silence.
He then asked how many of us could read music.
A few hands.
“Wonderful!” he said. “Ignorance contains opportunity.”

He then said he would like to introduce the College Choir, and turned to point at the slovenly bunch of students sitting onstage.
“Three, four, five six,” he chanted.
The students stood up, tossed their baseball caps out onto the stage, opened their back packs, pulled out green gowns trimmed in gold, put them on, and mounted the risers in orderly rows to stand at attention in sections, transformed into what now appeared to be serious young men and women.

“Three, four, five, six,” the Dean chanted, gave the down beat, and the College Chorus launched into a driving rendition of what apparently was the our fight song - a summary version of “Kick ‘Em In the Butt” - ending in a shout of “Fight! Fight! Fight! Forever Fight!”
And that segued into the most beautiful version of “America, the Beautiful,” one could hope for – in wondrous harmony.

Applause. Cheers.
Our College Choir!
And then silence.
Now what?

The odd thing about the assembled choir was the gaps in their ranks.
They weren’t bunched in tight like a choir should be.
The bass section was thin – with only a few men, and there were conspicuous spaces in their ranks.
Not many sopranos, either.

The Dean shouted at them, “Are you all singers?”
And they proudly shouted back, shaking triumphant fists – “YES!”

Then he turned to us, walked to the edge of the stage, and spoke as if he was talking to each one of us individually.
He said that the gaps in the ranks were those left by the seniors, who were actually present - in the wings waiting to join the choir for a final number.

He explained: “But when the seniors graduate, their places will be filled by students like those sitting in this room. You, for example.”

What?
Silence.

He said that this was a volunteer choir.
He said that if we could stand up, talk, had a brain, and functional ears, we
could learn to sing, learn to read the language of music, and learn what a joy it was to perform.
He pointed at the students in back of him and those in front of him and said,
“All of them once sat where you sit now.”

Then he asked, “You did come to college to learn, right?”
Heads nodded Yes.
“Well I came to college to teach. And we can work together.”

He beckoned to the senior choir members off stage, and they quickly filled in the ranks to complete the robed choir.

He asked the choir, “How many of you had ever sung in a choir before you came to this college?”
Three hands.
“How many of you could read music before you sang in the college choir?”
Four hands.

“So, then . . .” he said, turning back to us, “There you have it.”
“Any one of you who wants to learn to sing and read music, who will be faithful
to rehearsals and performance obligations, I promise you one of the great learning experiences of your life.
You will not get course credit.
But you will be a credit to yourself and this college as long as you live.”

And so, it came to pass that the man I know signed up.
He learned the language of music and helped fill out the bass section of the choir.
He never looked back – he was in the College Chorus for four years.

And he was one of those graduating seniors standing backstage in the fall of his senior year, waiting impatiently to go onstage and sing his lungs out to show the freshman class what could happen if they chose to learn something that was not in a required course.
It’s simple - A singer is one who sings.
And he had become a singer.

Another part of the May nostalgia of the man I know well is the final performance of the College Choir at graduation.
Now he was one of those in the black gowns of seniors standing onstage among those in green and gold – those who would remain behind and keep the tradition of the College Chorus alive.
They had walked together across campus one last time – across the freshly mown green grass of spring.

He remembered feeling relieved, “It’s almost over” he said to himself.
And then he thought, as he filed onstage with the choir -.
“This is almost over – this moment will never come again.”
Tears overflowed his eyes.

So, now, all these long years later, whenever he smells and walks across newly-mown grass, those memories come flooding back.
From the time he was a callow youth without a clue to the time when he stood onstage and sang as a full-fledged member of the College Choir.
He remembers.

The Dean of Music knew what had happened and where things were now.
“Come back to reunions and sing with us – you’ll always be part of the choir.”

* * *

The man I know well did not do that.
Every year in May he wants to return, but he cannot.
Because the story you’ve just read is not true.
It could have happened, should have, but did not.
It only happened somewhere in his heart and imagination.

The truth is that he worked full time while he raced through college like it
was only a job – and he lived at home, not in the college community.
He got the badge he needed – a B.A. – but he doesn’t remember much of what he supposedly learned.
He never even memorized the Fight Song, and did not go to graduation.
College was an endurance test - and he endured, that’s about all.
College was not real – life would be.
Little did he know how much he missed . . .

He never learned to sing or read music – only to fake it at sing-a-longs.
All he had to look forward to was “Happy Birthday.

The irony is that, many years later, he was onstage at his college to be honored as a Distinguished Alumni – sitting in a tuxedo with the dignitaries.
He felt bogus – if they only knew what a loser he really was as an undergraduate . . .
The College Choir performed at the awards event.
Their performance was real and true.

And nobody knew that the man I know would have given anything to be an
undistinguished member of that choir, standing in a green-and-gold gown
in the back row, singing bass and reading music with confidence.

I, of course, am that man.
And if you happen to be walking with me across a lawn of fresh mown grass
and you wonder why I have gone silent . . .
It’s because I am remembering being the singer I never was, and wishing with all my heart that I could be at the reunion that never happens.

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April 28, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The last week of April - 2015.
Three days of heavy, wet, spring snow, thunder, lightning and rain.
Exciting weather!
Easing the drought a bit and watering the oncoming wildflowers.
And here comes the sun . . .

Sorry to be so long in putting up something new, but I’ve been thinking . . .

Recently, Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher at the Douill Elementary School in
Denver, Colorado, asked her students to write a note to her - beginning with the sentence: “I wish my teacher knew . . .”
She shared the poignant letters on-line.
Her story and the letters were quickly picked up by the national news and the social media.
What were once children’s secret thoughts went viral.

(See for yourself by going to the web – lots of traffic on this.)

I applaud the teacher’s intentions.
I appreciate her willingness to ask for her student’s inner thoughts.
She must be a very fine teacher.
I’d write her a note if I was in her class.

On the other hand, I wonder how the little kids felt after knowing their secrets were shared with the world . . .

Secrets are always problematical . . .

PERSONAL SECRETS

“Can you keep a secret?
Don’t tell anybody I told you, but . . . keep this to yourself.”

This is part of a conversation involving three young women.
Overheard by me while I was sitting in Lee’s Nail Salon getting a pedicure.
As usual, I was the only male customer there.
And as usual, women seem to pretend I’m not there at all.
Sometimes I feel like a spy behind enemy lines.

The conversation continued . . .
I learned that one of the secret sharers is pregnant.
Why is this a secret?
Is this good news or not?
Is she married or single? Is she worried about the possibility of miscarriage?
Had she been going around saying she would never have kids?
I don’t know – and I sure as hell wasn’t going to butt in and ask.

How long is this pregnancy going to stay a secret? I mean . . . sooner or later . . .
Meanwhile, at least two other women know her secret – plus me.
Plus the rest of the women in the nail salon who overheard the conversation.
And that means the secret is out – now even you know. 

Old Ben Franklin nailed it, when he said:
“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead”

Fulghum’s Rules of thumb About Secrecy:

Everyone has secrets.
You can’t live long without having secrets.
Secrets are the fecund seeds of gossip.
Anyone who traffics in secrets will pass yours along.
If you do want a secret shared, tell one other person and wait a couple of days.

But the iron-clad rule is:
If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell anybody.
Not your husband or wife or children – not your parents or close friends.
Not even your priest or minister, lawyer, doctor, therapist or teacher.
There’s always a leak-factor when secrets are shared.

Oh, sure, there are positive secrets – temporary confidential good news that you may not want on a billboard, but you just have to tell somebody because you’re happy about it. You just got engaged or got a raise or came up big in a poker game.
Stuff like that - personal news that blooms in pleasure when shared.
No harm done.

Most of us have codes and passwords and account numbers we don’t share out of a reasonable sense of security.
But the people at the credit company know – and your bank – and Amazon.

And there are secrets in the grey zone – the ones exposed by the teacher in Denver – private fears, yearnings, good things done for bad reasons or bad things done for good reasons.
These secrets are both simple and complex at the same time – you both want and do not want anyone else to know.

Then there’s the secret side of all of us that might simply be embarrassing.
If everything that sloshes through my mind in one day could be shared in an audio-
visual form . . . I’d be exposed for the shallow, twisted, fool I sometimes am.
I’m thankful for the ability to self-monitor and edit out the garbage.
Nobody needs to know – even I’m embarrassed by knowing sometimes.

Having said that I think about a great social contradiction fueled by the electronic age in the form of the World Wide Web.
Privacy vs. self-revelation.
There is an outcry of outrage over the invasion of privacy.
At the same time, there is an explosion of self-exposure.
Blogs, pods, tubes, tweets, sexting, faces and spaces and all that.
There are those who don’t want anybody to know anything about them – matched in numbers by those who seem willing to turn themselves inside out for all the world to see.
Go figure.

There’s also a compassionate side of secret-keeping – why burden those you love and respect – why make trouble for those who have troubles of their own?
Especially if you’re part of the trouble already.

And then there’s the really deep dark aspect of one’s stash of secrets.
Everybody’s probably done things that are wrong, stupid, illegal, immoral, sinful.
Everybody carries a load they can’t put down anywhere with anyone.

There are some secrets buried deep in the back yard of my spirit.
I could not bear to dig them up.
I try to forget where they are – but I know they are there.
And only if I knew that I could forgive myself would I look at them
in the light of day again and clear the debris from my soul.
Not yet . . . maybe never . . . some secrets are best left buried.
I’ll probably take some them with me when I catch the bus out forever.

Secrets are part of the sense of loneliness that can overwhelm us.
I feel so alone sometimes – so do you.
It helps to know that I am not alone, alone.
It increases my sense of empathetic attitude towards everybody else.
If we knew the secrets of even our enemies, we would find enough sorrow and suffering to have good reason to be a little kinder and less judgmental.

There are also good secrets we don’t share.
The random acts of kindness that nobody else ever knows about.
Obeying the rule that there’s no limit to the amount of generosity you can bestow in the world if you don’t mind not getting credit.
You know when you’ve quietly done the right and good thing.
That’s enough.

I don’t want to leave you with a misunderstanding.
This is not meant to be a rant or confessional or a cry for help.
It’s just Fulghum thinking out loud about secrets.

It’s all such a delicate and contradictory balance.
I’m alone in here.
And, yet, I’ve got lots of company.
Thanks for being there. 

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April 15, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The middle of April - 2015.
Stormy weather – wind, rain and snow showers, cold at night

CAN

After a mild cold front blew through the valley with gusty bluster and moved on
East into Colorado, there was a sudden silent stillness.
And in that stillness, I could hear - from down at the bottom of the hill on the
asphalt road – the scrabbly-rattle of something metal clattering across the pavement.
Odd – because there was no wind to blow things around . . .
As I walked down to investigate, I heard the sound again, but this time it was
accompanied by the gleeful shouts of small children.
I saw them as they ran off into the shadows of evening.
What?

Kick the can.
They were playing I>kick the can.
The can was standing in the middle of the road, ready to be kicked again.
I did not kick it – but I was tempted.
Because I know this game.

To review:
A base is established and an empty metal can is placed there.
Someone is declared “it” – and he covers his eyes while all the other players run away and hide.
After counting to 100, the “it” tries to find the “hiders” – and if he does,
those who get found have to go stand by the base – by the can.

Those who have not yet been found may free those who have been caught by running in and kicking the can – before they, too, get caught by the “it”.
If this daring raid succeeds, all the players are free to run and hide again until
the “it” fetches the can and replaces it on base.

It’s just a jazzed-up form of hide-and-go-seek.
It’s a stupid game, in a way.

Because it’s almost impossible for whoever is “it” to guard the can while at the same time searching for those who are hiding – exhausting to be “it.”.
But in this case, the best part of the game is not hiding, or being “it” or, being freed - it’s kicking the can as dramatically as possible.
The harder, the further, the more noise made, the better.
It’s the can that makes the game.

This game may have a dangerous outcome.
One of the most memorable events of my childhood hangs on this enthusiasm for kicking the can in a mindlessly reckless fashion.
I think of it as The Great Can Catastrophe of Memphis, Tennessee.

Come sit on my porch. I’ll tell you the story.

Once upon a time, my mother and I had traveled from Texas to Tennessee for the annual reunion of her family – uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, and outlaws.
I was the youngest and smallest and slowest and stupidest of a gang of cousins.
Which meant I was always the loser in whatever game we played together.
I never managed to kick the can.

One night we were out in the street playing – the cousins and their friends.
It was dark – the can was set up under a street light – the game was getting rowdy.
I, of course, had been caught right away, and was held prisoner at the base.
Suddenly, out the darkness, two boy cousins – two big ones who always bullied me – rushed out of the darkness from opposite directions intent on kicking the can and running over me at the same time.

They collided head-on, and fell back, sprawling senseless onto the street, bleeding copiously from their noses, looking like two victims of a gangland shooting.
Girl cousins started screaming, “They’re dead! They’re dead! They’re dead.”
Alas, I, who had nimbly stepped back just in time, could see that they were both still breathing.
Clearly not dead – too bad.
But I hoped they were at least paralyzed for life.

Uncles and Aunts poured out the front door of the host family home.
The sound of sirens was heard from afar.
A fire truck arrived, followed by an ambulance, and two police cruisers.
All with sirens wailing and red lights flashing.
Neighbors followed the emergency vehicles to the scene of the massacre.
My girl cousins continued screaming, “They’re dead, They’re Dead! They’ve killed each other.”
Bedlam.

It took a while to sort things out – the two boy cousins were revived, dazed, but suffering no more than bloody noses and mild concussions.
The game was ended for the night.
But the memory of that event lingered on.

For years the family retold the tale of the Kick the Can Catastrophe.
And we cousins relished the thought that we had created so much uproar – fire truck, ambulance, cops, sirens, flashing lights – screaming girls – all that – wonderful!
The best part was, that for once, nobody got scolded or punished because we had really not done anything wrong – none of us were to blame – it was an accident in a game.
The perfect kid crime.

* * * * *

This memory rose up out of the swamp of my mind as I picked up the empty
Coors Beer cans the children at Pack Creek Ranch had left behind when they were called home.
I found that they had actually been using four cans in a stack.
They no doubt found them on the side of the road and abandoned them when they ended the game.

I admit I felt a little foolish standing there on the side of the road in the dim light of evening clutching four beer cans.
The people in the car that passed me cheered as they drove by.

There are always plenty of cans on the shoulders of Pack Creek Road.
See, we’re way out in the boondocks and people throw their beer cans out the windows of their cars because it’s not only illegal to drink while driving, but it’s illegal for there to be an open alcoholic beverage in the driver’s part
of the car – even if the driver isn’t drinking.
So – people drink up, and throw out – just in case the cops stop them.

Wait – don’t go away.
I’m not going to launch into a rant about littering or recycling.
Instead, I offer a meditation on aluminum beer cans.
I’ve often thought about them when I was walking the shoulders with a volunteer crew armed with big orange bags collecting litter.
Things have improved over the years – not nearly as much trash is to be found.
It’s mostly beer cans now – for the reason I’ve given above.
And, for some unknown reason, the cans are mostly Coors Beer.

So I did some research:
The Coors company in nearby Golden, Colorado, not only makes beer, they manufacture the aluminum cans as well.
Tasty light beer, in a lightweight container that’s strong and durable and stackable.
The can has a pop-top, and is recyclable when empty.
It’s called “The Silver Bullet.”
The cans are one of the most sophisticated pieces of engineering we encounter.
The product of more than 150 years of research and development.

The bauxite ore is mined in Dwellingup, Australia – smelted in Evansville,
Illinois, and rolled into paper thin aluminum sheets in coils as long as a mile.
Incredible machines turn the aluminum into cans, which are coated inside with a thin millimeter of epoxy before filling.
The cans are made with an assembly tolerance of 50 millionths of an inch, with a failure rate so small it can hardly be measured.
The people of the world go through about 180 billion aluminum beverage cans
each year.
If you stacked up all the cans produced in a year, the stack would be 13.5 miles high, reaching to the moon and far beyond.
The cost of each can to the manufacturer is about 10 cents, with a profit of about 2/3rds of a penny per can.

(I won’t go into the brewing of the beer, which is equally amazing – I’m just focused on the cans.)

Hang on now - I know I’m telling you more than you might want to know – and there’s lots more – but I’m almost done.

If the aluminum beer can was hand-made and limited in supply, it would be very expensive to buy one – with or without the beer.
As it is, you can get a six-pack for about $5.00.

You could make toys or art of jewelry out of the cans and the pull tops.
Or just throw the cans away when you’ve consumed the contents

And some kids might come along and make a game out of the empties.

And someone like me might come along, pick them up, and walk home in the dark, slightly stupefied by how amazing an ordinary thing can be.
And more than ready for a game of kick the can.
Want to play?

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

(For more about aluminum cans, go to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_can or to “Google images” for aluminum cans http://goo.gl/gsq9Z2 .

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