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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Allowances for old cornmudgeon brothers


Most of you know our dear old cornmudgeon brother, Walt, died just about a year ago. There was another stroke a year ago last Memorial Day, he spent the next several weeks slipping away, and he was gone. He left behind six children, one a complete surprise who came to the funeral.

He left behind a little money and the large mess of being intestate. Two of his sons slogged through getting an executor named, getting power of attorney to open the storage lockers to his two vintage automobiles, getting them sold, etcetcetc. Some other sons and wannabes elbowed to the head of the line, demanding their share until Mark simply announced he would put the signed titles on the front seats of the vehicles and quit paying rent on the storage lockers. Then everyone would get the same—nothing. Mark is one sensible fellow.

But, I digress.  Walt also left behind the barn he and Tom shared, to the rafters with Walt’s “stuff,” as Walt parted with almost nothing. Perhaps even nothing, as Tom has come to believe as he has slogged through sorting, pitching, saving. There even were baby pictures of the surprise daughter, although we knew her when we saw her; her face used to belong to our Aunt Ruth.

The two bottles of mercury were a real surprise. There was a tiny bottle of mercury in the house when I was a child. I think it contained the remains of some broken thermometers. I don’t know; my brothers found it far more interesting to roll around the dining room table than I did.

Walt alluded to the bottle on occasion, along the lines of the EPA was simply out of line banning mercury, it was just another government plot to take over the lives of  honest citizens. Perhaps even a conspiracy, who knows. I only know Walt seemed to have dad’s little bottle of mercury around and thought no more of it.

Two bottles! I told Tom, just don’t fool with it, I’ll find out what to do. I asked the road guys the next day. They know everything! “Should I call the EPA?” Don’t do that, one immediately advised. They’re liable to tent your barn. He thought for a bit and then advised I call the fire chief.

Charlie’s phone number is still in my phone from my old fire clerk days.  I told him it probably amounted to a quarter cup (Tom’s estimate), and could I give it to the fire department to dispose of?  Just sit tight and he’d find a legal way. So, I could no longer leave it on the fire station doorstep in the dead of night.

A few days later Charlie called. It could go to the Household Hazardous Waste Center if it were clear double bagged. Our HHWC is only open a couple hours a week in the summer, beginning in June. All my sleuthing was done in April. At the supper table tonight something jogged my memory—it’s June and I need to get rid of that mercury.

“I already went,” Tom said. “Got there two hours before they opened and I was third in line. There were thirty of us by the time the gate opened.” I can imagine thirty old gents, shooting the breeze. When he handed off the old cornmudgeon’s stash the person on duty ascertained it was properly bagged and called out “Mercury here.” Men in gloves came to take it. I wonder if Walt winced? It’s nice to know “the authorities” seem to take old cornmudgeon brothers into account.


26 comments:

  1. We used to play with mercury too, when I was a kid. And now it is such a big deal

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  2. I dropped a thermometer last year and followed all the proper steps. Crazy. I cut up carpet.

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  3. Amazing. I've heard of only two other cases where people kept mercury surreptitiously. I don't know why people keep such things.

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  4. a mercurial tale; not sure why Walt would have had those bottles; perhaps that barn held other valuable treasures not known, the detective in me is sure there were. My husbands family (Finnish) used to melt lead in the kitchen in an old habit of telling fortunes with it. No children were harmed as far as he knows by that practice.

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  5. Hari Om
    Crikey - a year already since the passing? I musta blinked... glad the ol' conmudgeon left you all something to think about...YAM xx

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  6. We rolled mercury around on our school desks when I was in elementary school. The desk top slanted slightly, and it was fun to see the bright silvery stuff slowly roll. We pushed it back up with our hands. I don't recall a teacher even complaining, much less panicking.

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  7. What an interesting find. I wonder what other treasures they will find in the barn. It is so sad when families fight over the remnants of another person's life. I hope hard feelings will not last.

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  8. Used to play with it in grade school. Guess that's what wrong with me.

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  9. Interesting stuff, apparently it can be dangerous.

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  10. I remember having a few broken thermometers with mercury in them from my youth and my mom just "routinely" cleaning them up.

    Glad a place was found to dispose of the mercury in a safe way. I can't believe its been almost a year since Walt's passing. Time sadly does go by so fast.

    betty

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  11. Yup, we played with it too.
    Intestate? My partner falls into that rotten category. He believes he is immortal. A selfish part of me hopes he is more immortal than I am, so that is one mess I don't have responsibility for.

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  12. I remember a science teacher giving a lesson about mercury. He made us all stand well back and then rolled it all over his desk. I never learned any more about it than that. I must read up on it sometime.

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  13. I was going to write what Una wrote, but there's no need now.

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  14. I had repeated fevers as a child suffering tonsillitis again & again. I remember the thermometer well !

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  15. Lovely reminiscent post Joanne. Wherever he is now I am sure he is looking down on you with a smile over how hard it has been to sort out his stuff.

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  16. I wonder if sisters are allowed to be curmudgeons? It would be rather fun I'd think.

    What's going on with your back Joanne? I've been thinking of you.

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  17. I seem to remember some mercury being around as a child. we also had a lead brick that my father brought home one day. I have no idea where he got it but it stayed in the living room. we kids played with it, always impressed by how much it weighed. it got scratched up and dinged over the years. don't know whatever happened to it.

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  18. we rolled mercury in science in school but weren't allowed to touch it with our skin. I've remembered that lesson ever since right down to the room, where I sat and the weather. Weird, I wonder why?

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  19. My mother cleaned up the broken thermometer and mercury the same way: sweep it all up, throw it in the non-burnable trash, which was always dumped in the trash heap up in our unoccupied hills. Wonder how that went.

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  20. I think I'm lucky I only played with it once or twice. Never saved any. The bottle of it reminds me of the movie, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and the character Luther.

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  21. I remember mercury in school in chemistry

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  22. all of my fever thermometers are mercury filled. Oral and rectal and all in celsius scale. Normal temperature is 37 degrees. Fever starts at 38 degrees. I will continue to use.

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  23. I recall a friend in elementary school brought the mercury from a broken thermometer to school. She kept it in a medicine bottle then opened it onto her desk. Pushed it around with her fingers and we were all entranced. Wanted a turn to touch it.

    Wonder what that did to us?

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  24. Oh, the stuff we save and then leave behind for others to be concerned about. All of us from that generation had experiences with Mercury. Heck, it was a time before video games and iPhones and Mercury was a wonderful curiosity to play with on rainy days. I used to love to break the balls apart and somehow, I am still around to tell the story.

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