Living a life on linoleum in our old house

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mine was a life lived on linoleum.

Floors, steps and shelves of our old farmhouse were covered in the stuff.

It was back when phonebooks were thick and desired. I dreamed of flying with the Jetsons in their car one day. I was set on conquering the world, but I suffered from dollar deficit disorder. My lone skill in shop class was that I could straighten a nail. My school locker was so messy, a bonfire was the only cure. My unwashed gym clothes were a science project capable of driving mice from the school.

Email newsletter signup

Lunch was when we paid homage to those in charge of our nourishment. Not everyone appreciated school lunches. A friend complained that her chocolate bar had melted and showed the messy wrapper to me as proof that she’d be forced to eat the school lunch instead.

“Oh the humanity!” I wailed, solidifying my reputation as the class nitwit.

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I tried not to worry. I was a follower of Alfred E. Neuman, cover boy of MAD magazine, whose slogan was, “What, me worry?”

We dissected frogs in biology class. I tried giving mine artificial resuscitation. It was the first frog I’d ever lost. I felt terrible. Frogs have hops and dreams.

I consoled myself by quietly singing in the key of off, “Frog went a-courtin’ and he did ride. Uh-huh.”

Not quietly enough, as my teacher found it necessary to tell me to zip it.

I thought that if I could write a poem about the experience, I’d cover an English assignment as well as do my biology classwork. That should have been easy as frog rhymed with bog, clog, cog, dog, flog, fog, grog, hog, jog, log, slog, smog, etc. How hard could it have been to employ iambic pentameter to produce a stunning sonnet? Dissection provided vivid imagery. I haven’t finished that sonnet or the one on procrastination yet.

I built a bridge for physics class. It was constructed from balsa wood and glue. Mine was more glue than balsa. The idea was to build a model bridge and see how much weight it would hold. My class was told that some students just like us, only smarter and with parents who could afford to hire someone to build the bridges, created bridges that carried 200 pounds. My bridge came to a sad end on the school bus. The memory of its demise has mercifully assumed blurred edges. I gathered the broken sticks into a brown paper bag and showed them to my teacher, a fine man who had once tried to explain why most of us wouldn’t melt in the rain.

“Gravity,” I said in explanation. “We have a lot of it at my house. I think it’s the linoleum.”

“Good effort,” he replied. He owed me one.

That was because I’d answered his annual trick question. He’d asked the class who could start out in Indianapolis, drive 500 miles and still be in Indianapolis. My father listened to the Indianapolis 500 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The radio roared with the sounds of the engines, making it hard to hear the broadcasters. It took a good imagination to listen to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio. Anyway, the answer was a driver in the Indy 500.

This was all during a time when I cavorted and participated in piffle. Hijinks were frequent.

I stopped with a friend at a local restaurant with a linoleum floor. We’d been baling hay, but we hadn’t yet been paid. I had only a dime. You couldn’t even get a dirty look for a dime. I came along just to watch him eat. He ordered a hamburger and a glass of milk. When the milk arrived, I covered it with my cap. Before he could complain, I said, “I’ll bet you a dime that I can drink your milk without moving my hat.”

“You’re on,” he said with a smile. A dime wasn’t much, certainly not the price of a glass of milk, but a dime was a dime.

I picked up my hat and drank the milk.

Then I said, “I couldn’t do it. You win. Here’s your dime.”

I’m thankful for the memories.

I don’t need to use a weed whacker to find hidden treasures.

They are covered with linoleum.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.