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The Sulfur Pot


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The Sulfur Pot – Barry Byers


Sitting in the heat of the afternoon,

thoughts of the past go through your mind.

It’s a good time for reflection on your life.

Throughout life, there are seasons of dry spells and wet spells. Some days it’s hot, and some days it’s not. It has not rained for weeks. Then finally we get a late September evening shower. More like a sprinkle than a rain but just enough to knock the dust down. It was so dry that the ground acted like concrete, and what little water that fell ran off, not soaking in the ground to help the damage done by the dry weather. The light rain left a sweet sort of a musky smell from the leaves and grass that gasps for every drop of the cloud nectar they just received. I swear I can hear them exhale a breath of relief.

Fall is officially here, and the little garden plot is still active. I’ll be getting plenty of tomatoes off these four plants until the first frost. The sweet pepper plants are loaded; it seems that they wait all summer to produce fruit of any size. The ten okra seeds planted along the outer boarder of the raised bed patio garden have grown into small trees. They love this dryer season so much that the freezer is filled for the winter. This week, I pulled the last of the squash and zucchini plants and set out some collard plants in their place. I’ll enjoy having what little that comes from the patio produce stand. I need a garden spot every year, just because I like fresh homegrown vegetables and herbs when I can get them. The only way to get the really fresh stuff is to grow your own. I try to keep my plot as organic as possible, using home remedies and organic soil from the local hardware, if they really are organic. Anyway, you can get a lot of food from a small space, and I use most every inch of that space.

I have been watering that little garden plot since late April; that was the start of the dry spell. This climate change has made eating from the garden a daily chore. Just making sure to give all the plants a drink from the tap was a must. This summer has been a burning beast. We have already beaten the record for number of days in the nineties. How is a person supposed to grow anything without rain? Tap water from the city is water, but I like the natural way better. The earth needs rain. I feel pretty sure that the government seeds the clouds to try and induce rain, but that’s just my thinking. Next year, it will probably rain so much that I might have to start building an ark.

It’s five o’clock; time for a refreshing beverage. Before I stretch out on the lounge chair to soak up some sunshine, I turn on some good listening music, then fill the bird feeder for their evening meal. It’s the early bird special where every bird in the backyard flocks to get their share of seeds in advance of the gluttonous ground squirrels and chipmunks. It never ceases to amaze me how much animals and birds behave like greedy humans. The first dinner guest are the cardinals grabbing up the better selection of seeds, then come the jays to dominate the feeder, while the smaller birds eagerly gather up the scratching that fall to the ground. When the clamor for food settles down, that is when the squirrels come to feed. These clever tree rats are like acrobats finding ways to swing down and rake the seed out before dropping to the ground to stuff their little greedy cheeks. The afternoon matinee replays most every day.

Ice cold drink at my side; I stretch out and take a long look at the sky, just to relax and let my mind wander. This is my time of day. A rainbow drapes across the eastern sky as the sun is dropping low in the west. The rain was enough to cool off the patio so I can enjoy the evening watching the clouds and wondering who is looking down on me. This has been my favorite way to relax on warm sunny afternoons for as long as I can remember.

When I was little (meaning, very young), I often thought that on every cloud was a guardian angel looking after me. On clear blue sky days, everything was fine, and there was no need for angels. But today, the clouds were there, all puffy white, as they float off to the east. Occasionally, a swirl of a down draft against the brilliant pastel blue sky makes the clouds appear to be making faces for me. I laugh to myself as I try to make out the figure. Is that a dog? No. Now it’s a cow or maybe a pirate ship. Clouds have that tendency to change images in an instant. On any day like this, you can always see faces and other things in the clouds. I’ve seen most everything imaginable in the clouds. I have seen animals, people, buildings, and numbers in my cloud world. Heck, I have even seen some strange burst of light that could only be caused by something supernatural reaching down from the sky, but mostly I see wings of angels as puff clouds that resemble cherubs float beneath them. I study the sky for signs of inspiration. There are always angels looking over us in my sky.

This afternoon, as I lay resting, it starts my mind going back to a time in my life that started a string of incidents that changed my life. Today, my mind is on that dang hole that Tark (he’s my dad) had me and my brother’s dig when I was real little, just a child, the summer after first grade. That experience taught me that the task is as good or bad as you make it. It wasn’t the digging of the hole that changed my life; it was the incidents that followed what I call that hole summer.


There was a little house back

behind our house. Its purpose served the call.

Now that I have gotten old, I don’t miss the place at all.

We spent our entire summer digging that hole. Working only in our spare time and on days when there was nothing more interesting happening. (Spare time is when we were not carrying water from the spring when the pump was down, or feeding the pig, or putting out hay for Hillard Hoyle’s cows, or looking for eggs or any number of things that did not leave too many minutes to go explore the imagination.) But still, my brothers and I made a game out of every opportunity that came our way. We could make a game out of any chores given us, except the necessities. Carrying water and feeding the pig or milking the cow all were part of daily routine. They were the necessary things that fed us. Feeding Hillard Hoyle’s cows was a chore we were given because he gave Jenny (she’s my mom) enough money each month to help buy sugar and flour and other staples. But still, we made summer days fun.

It was during the process of putting out hay for the cows that Al (Alton, he’s my older brother) came up with the game of poop on a stick. We had to go in the pasture and run cows up to the barn for feeding, and Al was in charge. So this particular day, he picked up a stick and stuck it in a pile of cow poop. Then he started chasing us around the pasture saying he was going to smear it on us. Like playing tag but with a smelly twist. We’d run away from him far enough that soon we’d be down in the bottoms where the cows were. Just happened that is where we needed to be, and so there we’d be ready to run cows up to the barn. He would tag us with his cow poop stick anyway. After that, it became an ongoing game of war.

Soon we all had a stick with cow poop on the end to tag one another if you got close enough. It was poop on a stick war. Not much of a sweet victory for the winner, since there were no winners in our war. I often wish that all wars could be fought with this weapon of

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Explore boiling pots of molten sulfur at Nikko volcano near the Mariana Islands


SPEAKER: We were just heading for the southwest outside of the crater, outside the main crater. Southwest off the flank of the volcano there’s a small, what may be an older, crater on the southwest flank.

VOICES: There it is, there it is. There’s some sulfur, right there. That’s a little beauty. Look at that. That’s a beauty.

SPEAKER: Hold on a second. Yes, Ross.

ROSS: Should we at least dip a temperature probe in there?

SPEAKER: Yes, please.

VOICES: That’s really boiling away, isn’t it?

That should get it.

A hundred ninety-eight.

A hundred ninety-seven point nine.

SPEAKER: Huh, look at that. That’s yellow sulfur.

Video of Boiling pots of molten sulfur on the slope of the Nikko volcano near the Mariana Islands.