An old high school teacher of mine here in the hometown had a favorite adage that he would repeat over and over and over.
“Tell a child not to put beans up his nose,” Mr. Elledge would say, “and what will he do? He’ll put beans up his nose.”
Mr. Elledge was a science teacher. What did beans and noses have to do with science? Not much. But on occasion he would digress into this bit of child psychology. The good teachers aren’t afraid to digress from time to time.
Years before that, when I was little, I do remember putting a couple of smooth, unsoaked white beans up my nose but I got no jollies from it. I lost interest quickly.
But there was something else I did love to do instead.
We had a tractor path down behind the old house that ran along the edge of a pasture and on top of a bank overlooking U.S. 21. At a low point in the path, water would pool after a rain and form two mud puddles in the tire tracks. A smaller puddle would form on the right next to the pasture and a larger one would form on the left and lower and next to the highway.
Being cooped up inside during a rainy spell was hard on an active little boy. This was back before sedating video games were invented.
So with only two or three over-the-air TV channels showing fuzzy black-and-white soap operas and game shows on summer weekdays back then, when the rain stopped I was ready to get back outdoors. Guess where I wanted to go.
There are three things you can do with a mud puddle.
One: mud pies. Mom showed me one time about mud pies by using an old apple flat for a mold. Mud pies are for girls, though. Nobody said so, I just knew it. I didn’t take to making mud pies.
Two. You can ride a bicycle through a mud puddle. Once you’re confident with your balance, you can look down and admire the tires parting the waters and then the waters closing back. It was a mini-lesson in the story of Moses and the Red Sea, all right there on the tractor path.
It took skill to avoid getting stuck, though. If the puddle had been there a while and the mud was good and gooey, you might not get through if you drove through the middle. You might get stuck.
So you had to pick a path a little to the right or left of center and then get up some good speed to avoid getting stuck in the mud. Get the route right and you could zip right through a puddle and make a really nice splash to boot.
Then stop and watch the unaware buddy behind you go through the middle and get stuck. That would be a hoot, with him having to stick his bare foot or even better a tennis shoe into the mud to brace the bike and all.
Supposedly mature adults do something like this these days when they drive trucks in mud races. No, I’ve never gotten an invitation. I’m still waiting for one.
Third. You can make a big splash in a mud puddle. With your feet. This was the troublesome one.
I don’t know how she knew, but whenever I snuck off for a good splashing in the mud Mom subsequently would call me on it, no matter how well I rinsed my feet and legs off.
“Quit doing that,” Mom would say. But as my school teacher would teach years later an active little kid would start to thinkin’. About all that flying brown water. The soft. mushy ooze between my toes. Aw, I won’t get caught again. Go for it.
I thought I was the odd one on this till some years ago when I let my dog loose one rainy afternoon after work.
She was the hyper one. Always getting into stuff.
One long day after I got home and let her loose before supper she was ready to kick up her heels, had she had any.
A heavy rain had left a line of puddles at the edge of the tobacco field next door. The next thing I knew there was the dog sprinting through the puddles, splashing away.
She’d stop and turn and run back through. Again and again. I had to stop and admire it all. I thought I detected a big grin and a look of pure ecstasy on her little, snouted face.
Too bad Mr. Elledge never explained why a dog would want to run through puddles.
There’s a lot of mudslinging going on this election year. It’s fun to watch, sometimes. In small doses. But it’s nothing like the fun of slinging some real mud.
It’s been 50 years, but all this talk makes me want to try it just one more time. And Mom’s not around. Come on, rain shower.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.