Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mercury Rising



Here's a picture of some Canada geese who belly up to the all-u-can-eat buffet frequent my mother's back yard in search of corn. They don't have to search very hard.

My mother spends a large part of her day tending to geese, ducks, dogs and my father cats, but the most difficult challenge involves herding Gustav the goose in and out of his pen each day. This requires quick reflexes, lots of flailing arm movements, the skills of a snake charmer and fast-moving feet.

Recently as I observed the daily goose-herding scene unfold, I flashed back to another similar childhood horror incident involving almost identical motions.

I remembered my mother chasing mercury from a broken glass thermometer.

Remember glass? Remember when everything was made of glass instead of plastic?

Once upon a time, thermometers were made of glass, very fragile glass, and they contained mercury. Lethal, deadly mercury.

At least according to Chesapeake Bay Mother.

These glass thermometers were so fragile that a feverish child could snap one in two with one hand. Or somehow or another the thermometer would end up shattered in the floor. For example.

The breaking of a thermometer back in our house in those days set off a chain of events that included screaming, hollering, fear, panic and herding. A tiny drop of mercury the size of a needle in a haystack would bounce from the broken thermometer to the floor to the walls to Jupiter our central nervous systems.

At least according to Chesapeake Bay Mother.

As I recall, there was much ado about nothing. Because to the best of my knowledge that mercury never was caught. She either opened the door and let it bounce out or it landed squarely on our dinner plates where we proceeded to swallow it while chewing with our mercury-filled teeth.

Was the Chesapeake Bay Family the only one to chase mercury until it fled the county and bounced into the next state until it was safely out of the house, sprinting towards the bay? Or is this a case of overreacting, like the time when Chesapeake Bay Mother had us guzzling syrup of Ipecac because she thought we had trichinosis after I served up some Gunnoes sausage that, while blackened on the outside, may have been slightly rare on the inside?

Just wondering.

17 comments:

ghostless said...

You brought up a childhood memory. Similar but vastly different. Same in that my mother would be yelling about the danger, but different in that my father would buy a thermometer and break it on purpose to drain the mercury onto a piece of paper and then show my sister and myself the "magic silver liquid" and explain its special properties...and dangers. We thought it was awesome...and that he had mother in a thither!

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I have a vague memory of that happening once when I was a kid. But I don't remember any associated drama. It was a standard cleanup protocol, like a broken lightbulb or spilled milk.

Which could explain a lot.

Ann Marie said...

Dude.. I used to play with the mercury... as in hold it in my hand break it apart in drops and watch it go back together...
oh my this may explain things!

Jamie said...

I remember breaking a thermometer while shaking it to bring the mmercury down to the bottom... went everywhere. I read somewhere there is mercury in the new "green" lightbulbs we have to switch over to. If you break one on the carpet, they actually suggest cutting out the square of carpet...

mathews Mark said...

CBW happy birthday (A day late sorry) you know what they say (A day late and a dollar short must be from mathews), I think back then your mother and my mother use to call each other every day to see what dirt they could dig up on us or what stick they could poke us with that day . As far as thermometer goes, it was one of my tools to get out of school just hold it up to a light and bam!! fever time add a little cough, no school today. One day I was in a hurry I had a chance to spend all day at a girlfreinds house (her parents were gone, thats another story) instead of going to school, I put the thermometer up to the wood stove and called for my MOM mis POOKIE came in look at the thing,She was standing there with her hands on her hips giving me one of those I got you now LOOKS!!! after what seemed like and hour She said: YOU ARE RUNNING A FEVER ALRIGHT its at 107 and still rising at this rate you will die in 20 minutes,I will go ahead and call FOSTER&FALKNER (the local undertaker) for you or you can go to school. Well I guess YOU figured out , Idid not get to the girl friends house. Did anyone else ever try the light bulb trick? Well it looks like I have been order to attend Blogfest!!! Just kiddin I will be there (lord willin and the creek don't rise) BAYMAN and I will start working out so we can fit in or (nut huggers) thats speedo's for you northern folks Right BAYMAN.

Mrs F with 4 said...

CBW, I canNOT believe you would plan Blogfest for the date I am on another CONTINENT?! Oh! How COULD you?!

Golly, I remember the kerfuffle caused by a broken thermometer... Grandmama would be standing on a chair, squealing with the disdain usually reserved for slow worm or a particularly noxious mouse.

And Mark, we used the hot-water bottle trick, with about the same effect.

Happy Birthday for yesterday.. you can picture me singing if you like. But I wouldn't recommend it.

WV: Insine - is that like insane, but more so?

Daryl said...

All I am saying is we didn't have a mouth thermometer ... which may explain a lot

Caution Flag said...

I missed your birthday?? If so, belated, but VERY happy bday to you :))

My mom caught the mercury when the thermometer broke and used a Dixie cup to show us how amazing it was. Thanks for helping me find that lost memory.

big hair envy said...

OH, the DREADED broken thermometer!! They would BATHE us in Mercurochrome or Merthiolate if we skinned our knees, but Heaven FORBID we should get within ten feet of the mercury from a broken thermometer!!!!!

Did I mention that my crib AND highchair were painted with lead-based paint? ***audible gasp***

Ahhhh....the good old days;)

Trisha said...

While I don't remember ever chasing mercury at home, I do recall chasing it in chemistry lab in high school. They had the LONG thermometers and some boys broke two in one week. That was a lot of mercury. But - the chemistry teacher managed to chase it down and contain it safely - somehow!

TSannie said...

With Ann Marie on this one. Our uncle used to bring mercury home and we'd roll it around in the palms of our hands too. O dear...you're right...that really could explain a lot!

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

We had an old Mercury car. Mama would say "dont make me stop this car now." Yeah I know, I'm shutting up.
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Jamie said...

"Crazy 'bout a Mercury, Lord I'm crazy bout a Mercury.." sorry random songs sometimes pop into my head, wanted to say Happy Birthday to CBW!

Country Girl said...

And then there's Freddy Mercury . . .

Mental P Mama said...

OMG!!!!! I had the most mercury-phobic parents in the state of Tennessee. I swear I ate a few beads before they were on to me. It may be some sort of an explanation....

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

ghostless - Your father sounds like a very curious man, which means he must have been a really fun person to have as a dad.

Meg-Once? That's all? You're lucky. There's nothing worse than a mother who hits heavy and hard on the panic button.

Ann Marie- Yes, it does explain a lot, but it's OK, you're among friends. Mercury-filled friends.

Jamie-Holy mackerel, hadn't heard that about having to cut the carpet. Now that you mention it shaking the mercury down may have been how our thermometers broke, because I am telling you we broke many a one. Each and every time my mother freaked out, which set off a chain reaction that simply was not pretty.

Mathews Mark - You truly make me laugh, LOTS. Especially since I know Pookie and can see her reacting to your antics. The Foster Faulkner remark alone had me dying. I would have been *way* too afraid of being caught in a lie to even think of holding the thermometer up to a light--or worse the woodstove. My mother would have driven me to Foster Faulkner and dropped me off on the sidewalk if I had done something like that. Poor Pookie, you boys really tried her patience, but she's a great lady in spite of it all. Does she know that she, too, is making a guest appearance at Blog Fest? Perhaps you should fill her in. I tried to get your brother to get her over here last year, but he chickened out. (Mathews Mountain Man, are your ears/eyes burning?)

Mrs. F. : NOOOOOOO!! You can't be on another continent. Well, then, just know you have a standing invitation to come here whenever you are on this continent. Summer and fall are the best times to visit. Bring the kids and the Mr., you'll love it, and we'd love to see/meet you.

DAryl-Oh, honey, you don't have to say another word. Been there. Blocked that out. It's simply horrific.

CAution Flag - Now that sounds like a fun mother. Teaching, showing and NOT PANICKING.

BHE- Oh the humanity! Into how many gaping wounds did those mothers pour that mercury-laden, toxic poison that burned like hades. Your mother and mine simply have to be kin.

Trisha-Now that sounds like fun. Chaotic fun.

TSA-Oh dear. Don't let Chesapeake Bay Mother hear of this. She'll wisk you off to Guinea General Hospital and convince them that you have mercury poisoning. Good thing she doesn't have internet yet, or she'd be e-mailing you right away telling you of the maladies that await you due to playing with mercury.

Noe Noe- I'm ashamed to admit that I've used those exact same words on my own two when they were younger. I actually pulled off on the side of Route 14 in Gloucester. It was ugly. But they didn't utter another word the whole trip home. Mission accomplished. (Do you have a picture of the Mercury?)

Jamie - Good song, and thanks. (I'm trying to forget all about the bday since after all it was only my 18th.)

CG-Oh yes, there's him. I think the only one we haven't mentioned yet is the planet.

That would be the planet I'd rather be on than have to drive in to the paying job again tomorrow.

Folks, there is no post written for tomorrow, I got nuthin' floating around my head except cobwebs, my eyelids are at half mast, and there's a million things to do before I can go to sleep.

Tomorrow's post may be worse than usual, just a fair warning.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, and MPM - Sorry, didn't see yours until after I hit the publish button, but as I said, you are among mercury-filled friends here, and I truly understand the horrors of witnessing a parent gone amok chasing after a tiny silver bead.