Monday, April 11, 2016

Squirrel Call: Iowa City 1981

I was working at the University that summer at Burge Hall, doing maintenance and cleaning and housekeeping when needed. I was working along with a number of other students, some who I had known, some who I met while working there in the summer. It was my second summer doing this.

But I--or we, as the case may be--met other people, too. Full time workers mainly, who were often from the smaller towns around Iowa City. People from the likes of Tipton (or is it Tifton?), Solon, Washington and so forth. People like Alfred (which was not his real name, but we called him that and I can't recall his true name any longer) and Norbert (who died in a pick up accident) and, to the best of my knowledge or simply my fallback name I seem to use, Jeff.

Jeff was from Washington, south of Iowa City. He was young--maybe twenty at most, maybe eighteen or nineteen. He was pretty much a country boy and wasn't sure what to make of we student outsiders (nor we to make of him). At first, at least. But he was a good kid (even though I was, in many ways, still a kid myself). Anyway, Jeff taught Steve Bowers and I how to make a squirrel call using three quarters.

(Steve was a close friend of mine. We had lived on the same 2000 dorm floor our first year there, though I had never really knew him well--but we became pals while working together.)

Jeff hunted squirrels.  In the woods he called them out of the high trees with the use of quarters. He showed us how you can cup two quarters in the circle of your thumb and index finger, then using the third quarter, you tap it rapidly on the two suspended quarters to make that hollow knocking sound that squirrels make: thnock thnock thnock.

I have never hunted squirrels. But I did try it out with back yard squirrels once. They certainly paid attention.

Of course, I don't know whatever happened to Jeff. I hope he never ended up like Norbert.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Toe Hoe

I met Jerry in Seattle in 1987. He lived down the block on First Avenue West in Queen Anne, across the street from the Safeway more or less. He, as it turned out, was schizophrenic. Nonetheless, we were friends for a number of years.

He had a medical discharge from the United States Navy and had some money. He was originally from Nevada--Sparks--but lived with his grandmother in Seattle. He had been a lightweight--maybe bantamweight--boxer in the service, but in his heart he was an entrepreneur. He invented games and candlesticks and, I'm not sure. But the one device he did invent and bring to market was the Toe Hoe.

The Toe Hoe was a bladed metal contraption with straps. You put your foot in it and used it to hoe the earth for flower beds or gardens and anything else you could think of. He had them manufactured and had them advertised. I used to have a copy of his commercial. I imagine it was shown on late night TV--one of those Popeil or Wham-O like commercials with footage of the toe hoe in use while a breathless narrator talked it up.

I was freshly married and my wife and I thought it was very funny. But, of course, it was also rather sad. Jerry told me that he got a call one day from some older man who had purchased his product and wanted to know how to make it work--evidently it didn't quite go over as advertised. Besides a copy of the TV commercial, I bought a toe hoe. When we got it, my wife and I laughed again.

I don't think I ever even tried to use it.