The Fayette Citizen-Opinion Page

Friday, June 4, 2004

School’s out for Carrot Top

Contributing Writer

Saturday started like all Saturday mornings did on Flamingo Street. I was lying in bed, still half-asleep, not wanting to wake up and fighting the urge to hit my twin brother Mark with my pillow. The scraping sound of metal against concrete drifted through the cracked bedroom window as Mr. Thomas, our next-door neighbor, drug his shiny new aluminum trash cans to the street for pick up by the brown and white trucks of the Clean Sweep Sanitation Company.

Goofy Steve’s black lab barked constantly in the distance. Even though Goof lived two houses down from ours, when Country barked it seemed like he was right below our bedroom window. I told Goof that Country was a stupid name for a dog; Blackie, Duke, or Buck would have been much better, but he insisted. So Country it was. Sometimes Goof didn’t listen.

I finally gave into the urge, jumped over to Mark’s twin bed and started to pound him with my pillow. Just something about a pillow fight with your twin brother that seems to start the day off right. Then, suddenly, I stopped.

This was no ordinary Saturday. It was the start of summer vacation! No more school for nine whole weeks! No more third grade! And no more Mrs. Crabtree!

During the momentary lapse in my pillow attack, Mark woke up and unleashed a volley of his own that knocked me off his bed and onto the floor. But I didn’t care; it was the start of summer vacation. We wrestled on the floor for a while until Dad yelled down the hall for us to quit, and then we got dressed and ran downstairs for breakfast.

Mom was in the living room exercising to that health guy on TV with stretchy pants, Jack LaLanne. She called to us as we went running by, “Y’all get your own, puff, breakfast this, puff, morning.”

I pushed Mark into the wall, cutting him off.

“Boys! Puff, stop fighting, puff, in the, puff, house!”

Our favorite breakfast was Oreo cookies and a glass of milk, but Mom yelled, “And no Oreos.” So we had to settle for our second favorite breakfast: mixing all the cereals together. Those would be Coco Krispies, Frosted Flakes and Captain Crunch. Coco Krispies turned the milk chocolate, Frosted Flakes had loads of sugar, but I didn’t like Captain Crunch too much ‘cause it cut the roof of my mouth when I ate it. And I sure wasn’t going to eat Mom’s shredded wheat, so I skipped the Captain and added more Coco Krispies.

After breakfast we ran out the back door and saw Country lying right under our bedroom window. When he barked this morning he sounded like he was right outside our window because he was. Mark got a leash from the basement and I got our digging tools for Cave Condos from the shed out back and we walked Country back over to Goof’s.

We smelled Goof long before we saw him sprawled out on a lounge chair in his back yard. Every year, the first week of summer break Goof would try to get a tan. But with red hair, pale white skin and a face full of freckles, all he did for that week was burn. When I asked him why he kept doing it, he’d say the same thing: “I’m hoping to get more freckles and then they’ll all run together into a tan!”

It never worked though, and for the three weeks afterwards, poor Goof peeled like an orange. This year was different; Goof smelled like lemons. Mark took Country to his pen, and I asked Goof if he had run his bike into a lemonade stand.

“Nope, that smell you smell is five whole lemons. Brad told me if I put his special lemon juice on my hair and lay out in the sun for a week, it would turn lighter. By the end of the summer, guys, I’m going to be a blonde!”

“Brad? BULLY Brad? You know, Goof, he’s called a bully for a reason.”

Goof protested, “Maybe so, but I don’t know how he can hurt me with lemons.”

What Goof didn’t know did hurt him. Well, it hurt his feelings. Bully Brad had failed to tell Goof that a combination of red hair and his “special” lemon juice would indeed turn Goof’s hair a different color. By the end of the week, Goof had orange hair - thus earning him the nick name of Carrot Top for the entire summer that year.

Like Goof, what you don’t know can hurt you this summer. You wouldn’t ride around with dynamite in your car? Or would you? Five gallons of gasoline has the explosive power of a hundred sticks of dynamite! Vapors can travel down hallways and around corners, so store gas cans outside and away from pilot lights. Never refuel a hot engine; wait for it to cool down or vapors can reach hot metal and cause an explosion.

If a wagon or bike has been in the sun all day, cool it with water before letting the kids ride. Let the water run a couple of minutes before taking a drink from a garden hose. The water in the hose can become very hot during the summer, and a quick drink can become a quick burn. If you must drink out of a garden hose, be sure to invest in a high-quality one that won’t allow lead and other toxins to leach into the water.

Hot pavement can also cause burns to the bottom of unprotected little feet. Always wear shoes or sandals during the summer, and don’t run while wearing them, especially around a swimming pool. Always have a buddy to swim with so you never swim alone. Make sure someone around the pool has a cell phone in case of emergency. Don’t eat one hour before you swim. (Mom used to tell us that last one all the time. I don’t know if it was true or not, but we always did what Mom said, just in case!)

Everyone should apply sun block before going out into the sun and re-apply it every hour if they swim, especially fair-skinned individuals. Guess that’s what happened to Goof. We didn’t know about using sun block back-in-the day. Poor Goof. He burnt like a French fry that Saturday.

[Rick Ryckeley is employed by the Fayette County Department of Fire and Emergency Services. He can be reached at]