Ever have one of those stupid dreams that is halfway normal and halfway off the wall? I dream about everything — I mean everything.  Most of them are way off the wall — cuckoo’s nest off the wall. If I have a night without dreams it’s usually because I’m sick and medicated into a coma. 

Recently I traveled back in time to my pre-school days. Now you know, to remember back that far requires some kind of brain. Well, I said some kind, I didn’t say what kind.

This was a summer where self-preservation and revenge entered my life.  I had two cousins who lived across the road (not street —   road as in dirt). These two boys were a little older than me and delighted in picking on me. Boys were, in my mind, something the dog dragged up and deposited on your doorstep because nobody else wanted them. My dad was so hoping that I would keep this mind-set all through growing up. But, alas, hormones kicked in way before Dad was prepared to cope.

I started down the road to mischief when my stupid cousins (John and Elmo) put bubblegum in my hair. Elmo being the main culprit. Really, anybody who names a baby Elmo should know that he is going to turn out to be a little snot. 

Despite everybody calling him Mo, he was still Elmo to me. I refused to call him anything but “Elmo the Dodo.” Then I would run as if my life depended on it. Course that made smoke come out his ears every time I did it. And I did it as many times as I could remember to.

I don’t remember what I had done to instigate the bubblegum fiasco but it probably had something to do with my smart mouth.

I went bawling to my mother. She had to literally shave a spot on my head to get the gum out. This was before anybody knew about putting peanut butter on it. It took three months to get rid of the bald spot. 

Ahh — but Elmo paid. I told on his mean little conniving bohunkus. Never heard of bohunkus? What? I learned where mine was when I was three and met up with a switch.

Course, I had to lay low for a couple of days after that — war having been declared and the first bullet fired.

The next thing Mo pulled on me was with a little wind-up birthday truck. 

Mo couldn’t leave things alone and just enjoy them. He was the type that had to take everything apart and examine it and see how it worked. 

He came over one afternoon with the little wind up “motor” out of the truck and played on the porch a while. He made a pretense of winding up the motor and listening to the sound up close to his ear. He enticed me to “come listen.” 

When I did, of course he got my golden curls tangled up in the motor and it kept winding the hair up to my scalp. Not again! Nothing to do but cut it out.

I made a vow. I spent the next 10 years making his life miserable. I became known as “THE  INFORMER.”  Everything he did I eventually found out about and made a beeline to his mama. Skipped my parents — just went straight to the one with the switch. 

It got to the point that Mo was so mischievous and into so much stuff that his mom would come to me for information. I would pretend to be reluctant but would soon give it all up — under duress, of course — a confidential informant.

If we had had them at that time, I would never have fit into a street gang. I would have had them all in jail or be pushing up daisies. I didn’t know I had become a fink, a blabber, a squealer, a stool pigeon. But then, I only did it to one person so that surely doesn’t count. Does it? 

Have you ever wondered who invented the gum that you have to extract from your kid’s hair?

Some 374 billion pieces of chewing gum are sold worldwide every year, representing 187 billion hours of gum-chewing if each piece of gum is chewed for 30 minutes. Well, then — sooner or later nearly all the little rug rats will end up with a wad of gum stuck in their hair. The odds are high that it’s gonna happen.

When I was a wee one, my maternal grandmother used to tell me about homegrown chewing gum harvested from the resin of some tree on their property. That may sound gross, but it has a history. 

The American Indians discovered a natural form of gum-like resin by cutting the bark of spruce trees. They introduced the custom of chewing spruce gum to the early North American settlers. These savvy New Englanders created the first commercial chewing gum by selling and trading lumps of spruce.

Spruce gum continued to be sold in 19th century America until the 1850s when paraffin wax became the new popular base for chewing gum.

DALE LILLY  is can be contacted at lifestyles@desototimes.com

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