I’ve always had a busy mind. One of the earliest products I concocted is captured in my poem:
Backyard Bundt Cake
Find a good tree with a bald patch
at the base of the trunk. It is perfect
if erosion has worn away a bit of root
to form a puddle from yesterday’s rain.
Find an old Folgers can, rusty will do,
and a thick stick to stir the goo
you will make from two handfuls of dirt,
a bunch of dry leaves crackled into bits,
and (don’t balk now) a bit of dog doo
from over by the back fence. If the tree
is cedar, gather a handful of tiny cones,
stir them in whole. If it’s fir,
you only need one. Crush it
underfoot so the scales slide free.
Mix them in your muck with a little green
grass and dandelion wishes. Stir
vigorously. Your arm won’t get so tired
if you sing, “Delta Dawn, what’s that
flower you have on? Could it be a faded rose
from days gone by?” Make a circle of
small pebbles on a hot sidewalk.
Spread the batter inside the round rocks.
Bake until crusty brown.
My kids never had access to rusty Folgers cans because I buy Starbucks Coffee (Kimodo Dragon, in case you want to send some my way.) No MJB or Folgers for me. As far as I know, they never really found the charm in making old-school mud pies.
In fourth grade, a couple years before the coffee can mud cakes, I developed a marketable product at school: Fake Fingernails. We were required to have one bottle of Elmer’s Glue, one container of white paste, and one bottle of rubber cement with a stiff little brush (the kind that could get you dizzy) or the kind with the slanted rubber lid with a slit that you had to bend so the glue seeped out.
The desks were square with an opening on one side where students placed their books, paper and pencil boxes. Just inside the lip of the desk was a groove, slightly wider than a pencil. It was meant to lay your pen or pencil in so that it didn’t get lost behind the books. While Mrs. Rabey read Johnny Tremain aloud to the class, I filled the groove with Elmer’s glue. After recess, it was dry. I peeled the long strip from the cold metal groove, then snipped pieces about an inch long with my scissors. That went fine until one flipped right out of my desk and landed by another student. Mrs. Rabey had excellent ears and eyes.
I had to empty my desk, then turn it around with the opening pointing away from me. All my belongings were crowded on top. I hardly had room to set the paper for my times test. I missed recess where the other girls–one was a girl named Dawn Reams, I think–sat out in the grassy field and talked about Tom Jones. That day, I had to clean the blackboards and the erasers instead. CLAP-CLAP-CLAP: Chalk dust everywhere.
Wasting a little Elmer’s didn’t seem like it should be a crime. Forty years later, women would pay $40 for what my friends paid me a penny. I should have taken out a patent on the idea, but instead of encouraging my enterprise, the teacher forbid me from making more fingernails in the ruler on the top of my desk. There went my nail salon. I don’t wear fake nails to this day. You can blame Mrs. Rabey for that.