Posted 2/22/22

WOODWORKING BY DAVE WOOD Thrifty, yes; nifty, maybe When my Grandma Wood got her fist around a nickel, you could hear its buffalo bellow in four counties. She came by that honestly. Her father …

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Thrifty, yes; nifty, maybe

When my Grandma Wood got her fist around a nickel, you could hear its buffalo bellow in four counties. She came by that honestly. Her father Charlie Johnson, came from Sweden on a merchant vessel, jumped ship in New York City where he purchased his first banana from a harbor hawker with his first nickel, and found he didn't care for its mushy texture, tossed it into the Atlantic and never spent another nickel foolishly for his entire life. He ended up owning a huge farm in Wisconsin and when he passed on to the Scandinavian Counting House in the Sky, he passed his money on to his two sons, with his six daughters left in the lurch. One daughter was my grandmother who inherited his legacy.

When I came to live with her, I was introduced almost immediately to her thrifty ways. One day I hankered for a peanut butter sandwich and she obliged. She brought out of the fridge a jar of Skippy's that was last opened when Sen. Robet La Follette Sr. passed through town in ‘24. She peered through her trifocals into the jar and spotted a bottom rim of tan stuff having the consistency of anthracite coal. She added some hot water from the tea kettle and let the jar stand for an hour. Then she shook and scraped and urged and coaxed and stirred until the peanut butter sloshed around the jar's bottom. Then she poured it out on a slice of bread and I had my first taste of a peanut butter smoothie.

Grandma thought stuff like popsicles and chewing gum were for the likes of the Belmonts and the Rockefellers, but when my whining reached the volume of the turbines at Grand Coulee Dam, she relented and headed for the kitchen.

Chewing gum, first, out of the cupboard came a slab of canning paraffin and a package of strawberry Kool-Aid. Grandma melted the paraffin in a saucepan, added a few pinches of Kool Aid and sugar, stirred it around, then poured it on the oil-cloth topped kitchen table to let it harden. As the paraffin turned from clear back to white, she got out her butcher knife and sliced it into irregular sticks, and wrapped them in waxed paper. She stuffed a few sticks into my big overall pocket and sent me on my way. Out on Berg's driveway, the kids were playing SPUD and chewing Wrigley's, Dentyne and Pepsin varieties. I popped in my mouth some of Grandma's Special Strawberry and Wax Chewing Material. It crumbled in my mouth, of course, but when it got warmed up by my hot spit, it chewed pretty well. Within a millisecond of the moment when the crumbs of wax got pliable, the strawberry flavor was gone. I made a mental note to remind Grandma to make the Kool-Aid dosage heavier in her next batch, therefore doubling my flavor, doubling my fun with double red, double red paraffin gum. (Sorry, Madison Avenue Hacks.)

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Grandma had set out to make popsicles from scratch. She mixed up a watery batch of tepid Kool-Aid. Strawberry, what else? Then she poured that mixture into two ice cube trays and slid them into the old Kelvinator that purred away like an old tabby cat. About the time I'd achieved S-PU on the SPUD game and about the time I had swallowed a few sticks of wax, the ice in the trays had begun to set. Grandma whisked them out and inserted tiny pine toothpicks into each little cube of pale pink ice, then slid the trays back into the fridge. At 3 p.m., I returned from Berg's driveway, tired and hungry.

“I'm tired and hungry, Grandma, but I don't want a peanut butter sandwich.”

“How about,” Grandma smiled, “a popsicle?”

“Geeze, did you buy popsicles?” “Nossir. I did better, I made me some from scratch!”

Grandma tugged a tray out of the Kelvinator. She decanted one and handed it to me. I grabbed the tiny little toothpick and I sucked the cube. My teeth got achy, just like with a real popsicle. Then I went out into the hot July sun. My fingers cramped as my icy pop went spinning around on that skinny little toothpick, like the governor balls on a Case steam engine, as grandma's husband might say.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.