The Quick Fix

I wish I had a picture of the way I jerry-rigged this problem because some people might not believe what I’m about to tell you. But here goes anyway:

One of our kitchen   cabinets fell off the wall one night. I was standing right there so I caught it on the way down and pushed it back and yelled for my wife, Donna, to hand me an empty kerosene can.

[I was heating the house with kerosene back then and I always had several five-gallon cans sitting around, some full, some empty. Kerosene smelled bad and smoked up the ceilings sometimes but it was a lot cheaper than heating with electricity.]

Donna got me a kerosene can but it wasn’t tall enough so I asked her to hand me three or four soup cans. I wedged them between the top of kerosene can and the bottom on the cabinet and, presto, good as new.

I was really busy at work –I was a newspaper reporter– and didn’t have time to nail the cabinet back to the wall, or screw it, or whatever it was I needed to do. So I ended up leaving that empty kerosene can on top of Donna’s kitchen  counter for a pretty good while.

How long?

I don’t know exactly. Who remembers stuff like that?

But it’s not like I didn’t do anything. When the original soup cans started to rust and look bad I replaced them with new cans.

That, unfortunately, is a true story.

Postscript: Eventually we remodeled our kitchen.  Now if I could just find time to fix the storm door.

Coming Friday: Three Strikes Is All You Get



What Poor Smelled Like

When I was a boy I almost always had a newspaper route, The Gadsden Times when I was 10 years old and, after we moved to Charlotte, The Charlotte News and, later, The Charlotte Observer.

When I was 12 and 13 years old, delivering The News to families who lived in North Charlotte, I found out what poor smelled like.

North Charlotte is evolving into an expensive, artsy kind of place now but in 1950s it was home to white, cotton mill workers. I delivered the afternoon paper there six days a week and then went to my customers’ homes on Friday night or Saturday morning to collect 35 cents, the price of a week’s papers.

Poor folks ate a lot of cabbage.

When they opened the front door, especially in the winter, I could see and smell poverty.

The front room – the living room– would often be closed off, so they wouldn’t have to heat it.  And if they had what they considered to be nice furniture it would be covered with white sheets, year around, to keep the sofa and chairs nice for company.

The smell of poverty met me when they opened the door: the odor of coal or kerosene burning in a heater; cabbage cooking on the stove; and stale cigarette smoke.

Coming Friday: Two Acres For A Quarter