Remember the Pixie Stix? Not the big, fat, plastic gizmo, but the real ones - the paper wrapped kool-aid type dusty garbage that we used to pour down our throats and gag like rats in the third grade after lunch? Our teachers ran screaming, calling our names and digging through the masses of children to find us in the barrel - the industrial sized and probably industrial left over, open-ended, metal barrel with the brads still in tact? Oh my God, what were those people thinking when they made that stuff?
I think I remember they came in packages, but you could buy them in the big lot, half of the sticks were leaking out - we tried to get them cheaper. Cheaper than what, a penny? We were all up in the clerk's face about it - "Hey, this ones' broken" and he was like "You broke it, you brat!" I remember my sister telling me to break them so she could come back and then try to get them on sale - I did it too, she was bigger than me. Pixie Stix! I found a site for them today and just had to blog about it - but after I started mentioning the sticks to my mom, and she didn't really remember them - it got me thinking. What else did Mom not really pay that much attention to?
The barrel! It was rusty, painted over with lead paint probably, bolted down with unprotected edged bolts to the concrete playground - concrete! The barrels came from somewhere that sold the old equipment to playground administration, but our school bought them from a parent - cheaper that way. They were used metal barrels with the tops cut out, and then filed over (somewhat) and the kids, if they played in them long enough like I did, knew exactly where NOT to put your fingers. Kids today use that wussy plastic stuff - imagine! We were real!
Oh, and we had Atomic Fireballs, the really hot red cinnamon type candy that we dipped in the syrupy cinnamon liquid that we also soaked our toothpicks in. Don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about. Burned your freaking eyes out before it hit your mouth to do the real damage. Atomic Fireballs could be bought for 6 for a dime and sold for a dime each after they had spent the night in the hellish brew! We were rolling in the money - 9 years old and using Pixie Stix to neutralize the burning sensation in our mouths - of course we were hiding out in the barrel!
Our school had a creek too. Not really a part of the property though - but just beyond the imaginary line (no fence in '69) that the principals would sometimes remind you not to cross because the teachers on duty couldn't see you if you did - what an idiot. Four or five times a week my teachers called my mom about that creek - the answer was the same. "Yes, I'll talk to her, but she all but lives in it most of the time, I'm sure she'll be OK. Did she come back to class or is she still there?" Mom knew. That creek had fish, crawdads, tadpoles, dead animal carcases, algae - you can't imagine the fun I had after school - and yes, OK, sometimes during. Most always during lunch, it was a given - creeks and me, well - we got along.
I bought a hundred Pixies at the mall today - Candiopolis - awesome store. They have Now and Laters too, but they've been bastardized - smaller, not as hard - you can actually chew them now without having to suck on them and rub little holes in your tongue - where's the fun in that? Do I make my childhood sound as if it was one big pain after another? Come to think of it, there were trees to fall out of, stones to cut your feet on in the creek and the pond out back behind my house. The Indian burial grounds just past the pasture held a lot of promise for the government, for me it simply provided a new alternative reality - a fantasy of real cowboys, real fighting, real dead bones to be dug up and analyzed.
I had my fair share of skinned up knees, carried snakes and frogs to class on a regular basis and the occasional turtle that simply had to be saved. I know that my early years in the wilderness just going from my house to school provided the foundation and the fun-dation for my desire to rescue wayward tortoises and toads that just happen to have made the mistake of being seen by me as I drive through their neck of the world - they're probably just trying to get across that street and here I come - to the rescue - yeah, right.
Pixie Stix. I remember my brother lacing them with baking soda to make me burp. It worked. Maybe plastic wasn't such a bad idea for that candy after all. Before they used the melting technique on the tops, get this - they folded the paper over with a heavy press! (those were better times.)