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Spring Lizards,a Maxwell House Coffee Can and a Stabbing

Updated on August 23, 2012

Spring Lizards and Other Boy Stuff

When I was a young fellow opportunities to make some extra money didn't come too often.We were always looking for ways to make a little pocket money. In those days, 1950's, we could pick discarded pop bottles out of the side ditches in the community and resale them at the community store in the cotton mill village.The bottling companies recycled then and the store at the mill paid a whooping 3 cents for some of the bottles and a nickel for some such as the Coca Cola green bottles. On a good day we could make almost a dollar. I wondered sometimes how those bottles could ever be reused, some were really dirty by the time we found them but I suppose when properly cleaned and sanitized were usable and once again filled with Coca Cola's. I just hoped I wasn't one of the customers who got one of those bottles I had returned for the nickel deposit.

As industrious young entrepreneurs and with a small fishing lake nearby where fisherman spent lots of quality time, we also picked up night crawlers and sold them to a man who sold fish bait for a living. After a good spring rain we could pick up dozens of them in our yard and we would sell them to him to make some money. He packaged the night crawlers in the milk cartons he salvaged from the elementary school lunch room. We also caught spring lizards to sell to this man. The local fishermen loved them and the bass down at the lake would knock them out of the water almost as quickly as the angler made a cast into Lake Summit. Catching lizards meant we would be out in the woods near our cotton mill village catching spring lizards along the small creek that that ran between two hills above our elementary school and eventually making its way into the lake.

Catching spring lizards required two people and meant one person would turn over rocks and the other would snatch any lizard hiding under a rock or maybe a dead limb that had fallen into the creek from one of he trees growing beside the stream. The stream was a lazy mountain stream and sometime called a wet weather creek because at certain times of the year it was almost dry. We would usually could catch a dozen or so each time we went in search of spring lizards. As for money for our efforts, it was minimal but being out in nature and catching lizards was a whole lot of boy fun.Ever now and again we would catch a "red dog" a salamander that was red in color with black spots. These were the the ones sought after by the bass fishermen and were worth more money.

When we were out catching spring lizards we had an open bucket but later we put them in Maxwell House coffee cans to transport them to the bait man. One day after catching several lizards, my new Maxwell House can didn't have any air holes punched into the sides. I thought maybe I could take my new Barlow knife and jab the holes into the can with ease. I sat down of the back porch with the can resting on my thigh and made a jab. To my surprise, my can rolled and my knife went right into my thigh. I was a pretty strong boy and the knife went in to my thigh about a half inch. I was mortally wounded or so I thought.

Of course after slipping into the house and telling my mama I had just stabbed myself, she immediately made me pull down my britches for a look. Now if you're a boy around twelve you didn't cotton to the idea of having to drop your pants even if it was your mother. I though I'd be covered with blood and my leg did did hurt something fierce. As it it turned out, the wound wasn't too bad and most definitely not as bad as the lecture I got from my mama for being so foolish as to try and jab holes in that can with a Barlow knife. I finally got the holes I needed by using a nail and a hammer but to this day I carry a scar from that day of my boy hood business venture.

I sometimes wonder if kids today realize the value of working for their own money as we did when growing up. At school we knew some of our classmates received allowances from their parents but this was not the case in our home. We were expected to do our chores and contribute in ways that benefited everyone. Selling fish bait was more fun than work and we would carry our night crawlers and lizards almost 3 miles to Mr. Bradley's house up on Gobler's Knob. Later after our six mile trek, we would stop by the community store to buy us a Nehi belly washer and a package of peanut butter crackers spending a fair amount of the pocket change we had received for our days work.


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    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hello, Cousin Fudd,

      I really did enjoy reading this account of a period of your life. And because I grew up in the 1950's too, I can definitely identify with the childhood experiences that you wrote about.

      Also, what I find to be very interesting is I grew up in the huge metropolis called Los Angeles and you grew up in an area that was not a big city -- yet, our experiences as children growing up in the 1950's were nearly identical.