Slugs and Slowing Down

Slugs and Slowing Down

Like Bill Cosby, I too, “started out as a child.” But I wasn’t normal. I didn’t listen, had no patience, and did everything fast. I was constantly running, jumping and sweating. Today I would have been diagnosed as “hyperactive,” having an “attention deficit disorder,” and possibly labeled as “learning disabled.” But none of those expressions had been invented at the time and my parents and teachers just thought I was a normal boy who didn’t behave properly all the time.

One such incident occurred in elementary school when I took off like a rocket to catch a pass thrown by a fellow classmate during recess. There was one minor problem, however. I didn’t see the stainless steel basketball pole in the middle of my route. I woke up in the kitchen of the cafeteria with worried-looking cooks all around. They were trying to place a cold, refrigerated can on the growing lump on my forehead. With everyone dressed in white uniforms, I thought I was in a hospital. Later, after a trip to Memorial Hospital in Johnstown, PA, a doctor diagnosed my second concussion. (My first one occurred at the ripe old age of three when I fell down a set of stairs leading into the basement of our house.) There would be five in all. I presume I was a slow learner too, because those concussions didn’t slow me down at all.

During the following summer I was so excited to set up a bird trap in the back yard, I fell while running full speed up a set of concrete steps. With my hands full of bird-trap-makings, I couldn’t break my fall. The result was my third concussion – and a broken nose to go with it. The sight of blood gushing from my nostrils caused Mom to take off in the opposite direction. She never could look at her kids after one of them got hurt. Covering her eyes she screamed, “I told you to slow down.” But, I didn’t listen. I still sport a scar right between my eyes from that fall

In junior high, we once went outside for physical education class a little late. It had been raining hard all morning, and then suddenly stopped. Our teacher thought that it would be a good idea to just let us walk around for 15 minutes or so, in our school clothes, and then come back in. The return route from the parking lot to the locker room became a marsh with mud and water puddles everywhere. But when challenged by a classmate to see who could get to the locker room first, I (without thinking again) responded. My brown penny-loafers were not the best running shoes, and when I hit the mud, rump first, my light beige jeans sucked up the dirty mess like a sponge. I am sure we all remember how it would have felt to walk around the remainder of the school day, in ninth grade, with brown stains on my beige pants. And my buddies let it be known to everyone that it did indeed look like I had a defecation accident that day. Oh, the memories.

Later, I attacked sports and coaching with the same fast, aggressive approach. Throwing the tennis racket into the woods following a mistake was a common practice. Having to replace the strings was not a deterrent. Hurling a pillow at the tube when a team didn’t cover the point spread was another release of tension. Breaking knickknacks on a shelf was not a deterrent either. And when I coached, my teams knew that the practice following a loss was going to be hell. Some former athletes still remind me that my practice sessions (even at the junior high level) were some of the toughest in their sports careers.

So, in an attempt to take life slower and relax a little, I took up gardening in my mid-twenties. It did not work.

I couldn’t just have a GARDEN! I had to have a RAISED garden, built with double-stacked railroad ties. A four-foot fence surrounded it. About 18 inches deep and 400 feet square, it was fertilized to the point that it smelled more like a barn. There were walkways included so that no footsteps disturbed the plants. I took pride in the fact that my plants were ready to harvest earlier in the season than any others’ around the neighborhood. And if I saw one slug in that garden, I took the non-pesticide approach – I killed it with beer. Yes, beer! ….

I had read in a gardening book that you could place small bowls in the garden - bury them deep enough that the rim was even with the ground – and then fill them with beer. The slugs, attracted to the beer, would crawl in and drown. Yes, it works.

Now, in my fifties, I don’t throw pillows at the TV set anymore. I’ve found that it’s much more relaxing to put my head on one while watching a game. I don’t throw tennis rackets either. Instead, I use them to skim the weeds off the top of my fishing pond. My relations with my son are better than ever because I don’t try to constantly coach him anymore. And I couldn’t care less if there are slugs in my garden. They don’t eat all that much, and the beer is much more enjoyable when used as a beverage.

You see - we all eventually learn to slow down and relax. For some of us, the learning process just takes a little longer. Detriment to your body, ruination of personal property and family tension do not always make much of an impact. For me, they never did, until I grew older. So…..
If you find yourself wanting to take life more leisurely, think of the slow and easy-going slug. Find a comfy pillow. Put the tube on, and have a beer. Your family and the slugs will be glad you did.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA