January 22, 2014

Snow and shadows and sweet gum balls

We had a sweet gum tree in the back yard growing up.   It fell to me to rake up the spiky sweet gum balls when they fell, sometimes an old sheet spread out in the yard, full of them.  The tree was huge. 
My father, who loved a nightly fire in the fireplace dearly, got the idea that they would be the perfect kindling one early winter and built up tiers of twigs and sweet gum balls, balled up newspaper, and a seasoned log.  He struck a match and at first the blaze was fantastic.  Then what must have been thousands of tiny insects came swarming out of the sweet gum balls where they'd been apparently lodging.  I remember clouds of insects, my mother leaping up horrified, my dad rushing around opening doors and windows and sheets of newspaper and waving the bugs outside. I was at that turning age - just young enough to appreciate the drama and excitement of it all and yet old enough to experience the humor of the situation.  Over the years, whenever I come across these spiky wonders on the ground, I wonder how many other people have tried the same experiment with the same results? 

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