Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 25, 2019


The Silica Gel Pseudomorph

South Jersey is a very sandy country.  There are miles and miles of sand there.  Some of it is very pure white sand used for making glass and for molding sand.  Some of this sand has sharp edges but most of it is rounded as if the grains had rolled around until the edges had worn away.  Mr. Kummel has written a paper about the sand in the Report of the New Jersey State Geological Survey for 1906.  His paper is entitled "The Glass Sand Industry of New Jersey."  It is a very interesting paper though you might not think so from the title.

There are also very large beds of green and red sand.  The green sand is especially interesting because it contains such immense amounts of alumina, iron and potash.  If our chemists can only find cheap methods for extracting these substances we shall have enough to last us forever.

The most curious thing about this green sand is that it is still forming in the water along our coasts.  Here the limestone shells of dead foraminifera are slowly filling up with the green substance as their bodies decay.  The shells are slowly dissolved by the sea water at the same time, so that the green sand grains give a perfect cast of the inside of the shells.

I became interested in this sand while I was in college.  The professor sent me down to Mullica Hill to get a load of it to experiment with.  He wanted to find a way to work it.  At Mullica Hill I heard that a farmer by name of Peter Norman had a pit on his farm.  One of the loafers there offered to go along and show me the way.  I told him he might go if he could get the farmer to let me have a load of sand for nothing and help me load.  This he promised to do.  On the way he informed me that Norman's daughter, Euphemia, had taken a notion to him and probably they would jine up.  I said I was looking for a wife myself and if I liked her looks I would take her along, but I must be sure first that she was a good cook.  He looked me over as if I were some kind of insect and asked me how much I weighed.  I told him all of fifty tons.

When we got to the house Euphemia came to the door herself.  I must say that she was a very fine looking girl with mischievous eyes.  She said her father was down at the other end of the farm and my friend had better go get him.  Then she giggled.  When he had gone she looked at me and giggled some more.  Said I might go ahead and take all the sand I wanted.  I asked her if she was sure her father would be willing and she said:  Sure!  She said she would show me the p[it and got on the seat beside me,  As we drove along she told me that one of her girl friends had told Sim she was gone on him.

I said, "yes, so he told me."

"Did he?" says she, "the poor simp!"

"If you go about breaking hearts like that," said I, "you'll get in jail next.  I understand the sheriff has been instructed to jug all the flappers."  This made her giggle some more.

She stood by the side of the pit while I threw the sand into the truck.  After I had been digging a bit my shovel struck something that felt like rubber.  It was round like a rubber ball as I uncovered it
and larger than a canteloupe.  I tried to throw it out, but it seemed to fastened to something at one side.  I went on digging and was getting interested when I heard someone shouting, and there was the farmer coming as fast as he could, waving his arms and shouting with all the breath he had left.  When he reached the pit he was huffing and blowing so he could hardly speak, but he made it plain that he was cross because I had dug without permission, said I had no business to do it, it was trespass, and he had a great mind to have me arrested.

I said that his daughter had allowed me to dig but that did not seem to satisfy him.  Euphemia told him that I wasn't hurting anything and that he was making a goose of himself, so he quieted down.  Asked what the round ball was?  I told him I didn't know and he got a shovel and dug too.  After a while the girl said:

"Why it looks like a man!"

It did, too.  We went on digging and uncovered his legs and the his feet.  They were feet all right, but he was the queerest looking thing you ever saw.  After he was uncovered we turned him over and I declare he had a nose mouth and ears; it was a man!  But the oddest looking man you ever saw.  His body was nearly transparent, like cloudy glass.  You could see all his bones through this.  He looked like stiff jelly with pieces of cotton in it.  We looked at him then at one another.

"Well, I vum," said Papa.

"Did you ever," said Phemy.

"Geewhitakers," said Sim.

The farmer brought our a wide board and we rolled him on it.  Then I nailed narrow boards on the side, so that he was in a kind of trough.  There he lay, glistening in the sunlight.  When looked up I saw that Euphemia was giggling again.

"Why the laugh?" said I.

"Don't you think he looks funny?  I never expected to see a man's bones like that."

It hadn't struck me that way before but it was funny, and I had to laugh too.  Just then the man sneezed.  Euphemia gather up her skirts, for she had on a long dress, not one of the bathing suits the flappers wear on the streets nowadays, and made a bee line for the house.  I felt kind of scary myself.  It isn't every day, I can tell you, that you dig up a jelly corpse and have him sneeze just as life-like!  Pop Norman was by this time as white as a sheet.  But what the corpse did next certainly made me stare.  He opened on eye, and after looking around a bit, confused-like, he looked at me, and winked,  I certainly was flabbergasted.  The he opened the other eye and sat up.  Then the farmer scooted.  The corpse began to talk to himself in some kind of outlandish jabber,  I thought it sounded like Spanish but it came out like lightning and I couldn't get it.  I had studied Spanish at college but I was not very well acquainted with it.  After saying the same thing over three or four times he turned to me and said it again -- slowly, and quite imperiously.  I went to the house and found Euphemia very badly scared and the old man drinking blackberry brandy.  He called it a cordial.  I insisted that he get some clothes for the stranger and we picked out an old suit I thought might fit.  I took these out to the Spaniard but he was much displeased with them and said he was not accustomed to such garb.  I told him it was that or nothing and the girl was coming so he finally put them on.  He seemed to be about as spry as ordinary people, and his manner was very polite.

Euphemia got over her fright after awhile and came downstairs but she seemed quite shook up.  After awhile the Spaniard tried to talk to her but of course she couldn't understand until I translated for her.  After awhile she seemed to like to hear what he said.  His talk was quite high-flown, and after every few words he would put his hands on his chest and make a low bow.  This seemed to suit Euphemia.

It was getting on towards evening and I was obliged to leave but I asked Euphemia to take care of him and I promised to bring a Spanish book so she could make out what he said, and I told him to stay here until I got back.  He promised to do so and I went away.

When I told the professor about my glass man he smiled and smiled.  He said the Spaniard must be a silica gel pseudomorph, and he was surprised and delighted that he or it could talk Spanish, and when he this he grinned like a Cheshire cat.  I got a Spanish dictionary and phrasebook from the college bookstore and went back next day.  I found he trying to explain the difference between ser and estar.  It struck me that was a funny thing to do, but he seemed rather touch, so I gave her the books and went back to college.  I was very busy the rest of the term and couldn't get away, but as soon as possible I went back.  They were out riding the old man said, and he seemed rather put out.

When they came back I tried to tell her about the green sand, but she didn't seem to be interested and he yawned; so, after talking to the old man for a while I came away.  She didn't ask me to come again.  He was polite but quite formal.

I saw no more of the Normans nor of my Spanish friend for a month.  I was in Trenton one afternoon and was walking on the street when who should I run into but the Normans,  they were staying with an aunt of hers and I went with them.  We sat up pretty late that  night while Euphemia told me about the Spaniard.  She said she wondered if I hadn't heard about it; part of it, it seemed, had gotten into the newspapers.

She told she had soon got so she could speak Spanish pretty well.  It was not difficult except for that miserable ser and estar.  They both meant the same thing and you were pretty sure to use the wrong one.  I told her it was like the old lady who knew difference between soldier and shoulder but never could tell which was which.  She said the Spaniard talked all the time.  He was so polite that at first she liked him pretty well, but he never seemed to like her father and didn't treat him very well.  He claimed to be a hidalgo, which appeared to be some kind of a nobleman.  He was terribly stuck on himself.  He was a ferocious eater and kept her cooking most of the time.  He was always asking for dos hueva fritas or carne de vaca.  "He kept me frying eggs or Dad runnin to town for meat all the time.  I believe he could eat a gallon of soup, and it took so much butter to fry the papa fritas that we had none left for anything else.  He was fond of fish, too, and was always askin for them.  Things got so bad that Dad and I  concluded that we had better take him down to the shore where fish don't cost so much.  By this time something got the matter with him.  It had been rather cool and moist by this time but by the time we were ready to start there was a dry hot spell.  Before this you could see everything inside his head except where the bones were in the way.  But now white patches by snow began to grow on his face, and pretty soon he began to look like a snow man.  His face was perfectly white without a trace of color.  It was frightful.  I kinda liked his looks before that.  You needn't laugh; you like the good lookin women best, and I don't see reason why we shouldn't like the good lookin men." [sic]

"If he didn't get what he wanted at once he flew into an awful rage and it was pretty fierce, I can tell you, to have Snow White rampagin around.  So we took him to the shore, or at least we started for the shore.  He had a sword that the blacksmith had made for him out of an old scythe of Dad's and a belt around him to hold it.  I said we might be arrested for carrying such things around, but Dad said you cannot carry concealed weapons, but nothing was said about other kinds, and there was nothing concealed about that sword.  So we started off in the wagon, and he sat in the front seat with Dad.  Pretty soon I noticed that little white scales was driftin down from him on the floor.  It was hot that day but he didn't seem to feel it in any other way, but all the time those little white scales kept siftin down 'till the floor was white.  I didn't like to say anything for fear of hurtin his feelings but I got mighty nervous.

"We had been on the way about an hour when he spied some oranges in a store we was passin, and he  got out, went in and took them.  Didn't stop to pay, just took them and went out.  The store keeper came out and said, politely, that he forgotten to pay,  but Snow White flew into a rage and began to swear frightful.  He pulled out his sword and chased the store keeper into the store.  Then we drove on, but by this time Dad and I were scared stiff.  About an hour later we passed through Swedesboro when a little fellow with a star on his coat came up and told us we were his prisoners.  The Spaniard jumped out and ran at him with the sword.  The constable was plucky; he pulled out a pistol and fired at the Spaniard, but he didn't hit him, and the Spaniard chased him down down the road.  We drove on then but more scared than before.  I asked the Spaniard if he wasn't afraid of being put in jail but he said no, they wouldn't dare touch a hidalgo.

"Pretty soon we came to cross road and somebody yelled at us from a clump of bushes 'Surrender in the name of the law.'  But that didn't frighten him.  He just jumped out and charged that clump and drove the two men in it down the road.  By this time we almost to to Pennsgrove.  I was so scared that I got off and ran down a side street and Dad after me.  We didn't see any more of him but we was told he drove in as large s life and met the sheriff , with two deputies.  He chased them and cut one of them pretty bad.  Then he ran to the wharf, jumped on a fishing boat, cut the cable and started down the river.  The revenue cutter got after and they fired a shot at the  boat.  This made her fill and she went down but they managed to pull him out.  Of course he got very wet.  They took him to the jail, gave him some dry clothes and put him in a cell.  They captured Dad and me too, but after they asked us a lot of questions they concluded we wasn't to blame and let us go.  I went to see the Spaniard next day and, say, he was a sight!  All the white scales was gone but they had been thicker in some places than in others, and where they had been thickest there was a kind of pit in his face like a man who had small pox.  He looked fierce, but the water had made him look like glass again.  There was no snow white stuff on him at all.

"They took him before a J. P. that day and he told them that he was a Spanish nobleman who was willing to die for Spain.  H said he had sunk m any English ships and killed many English and that he was willing to do it some more.

"Now, I don't know what you think," Euphemia said to me, "but I think that fellow had been thrown overboard from some ship and was petrified on the bottom of the sea and covered with sand.  When you dug him up he just came to life again.  He must have been a bird when he was alive, so he mjust went on being a bird when he came back to life."

'Well, the Justice of the Peace must have thought he was crazy so he sent him to the asylum.  But he didn't stay there long.  He broke loose one night, made for the shore, killed two men who was sleepin in a small vessel, pulled up the anchor and put to sea and hasn't been heard of since."

-- Edward Hart (1854-1931), The Silica Gel Pseudomorph and Other Stories (1924)

(My Monday posts usually start with the opening paragraph or two of a story that interested me.  Breaking with that today, I decide to go with this complete and enjoyable tall tale.   As a tall tale, a lapse of logic and/or continuity is acceptable: just my way of saying don't worry about what ever happened to Sim, among other things.

(Hart was a chemist and the editor of The American Journal of Analyutical and Applied Chemistry from 1882 to 1901.  He was also the author of several chemistry texts.  His collection of twenty stories (mainly fantasy) relating to chemistry.   The Silica Gel Pseudomorph, as well as some of his textbooks, was published by Chemical Publishing Company of Easton, Pennsyvania)

He's Just a GURL Who 'll QUID PRO QUO:  Randy Rainbow strikes again:

The Mousetrap:  Today marks the 62nd anniversary of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, the longest continuously running play in history.  First staged in 1952 at the New Ambassadors Theatre in \London's West End, The Mousetrap has gone through 28,000 performances as of  October 12, according to the show's official Facebook page.  It is now running at London's St Martin's Theatre.

Truth to tell, it's not the greatest play ever.  Nor was it very well received at the start:  The Manchester Guardian called it "a middling piece...[where] coincidence is stretched unreasonably."  The Daily Express thought that some of the characters were "too obvious by half."  Others were more kind. 

The play has now become a tradition among London tourists.  Although The Mousetrap's plot and ending are now well-known, audiences are asked not to reveal the play's twist ending.

 I won't reveal the ending if you won't.

Florida Man:  Nature doesn't like Florida Man.  Joseph Zak, 37, told Fort Pierce police that the wind had blown the cocaine into his car that they had found.  Presumably, the wind also blew in the crack pipe they also found there.

What does the fashion maven wear when being arrested for armed robbery.  If you are Florida Man Trentin Richardson, the answer is an exfoliating mask.

Road rage takes on a new twist in Largo.  Florida Man David Paul Wipperman, 61, was not satisfied with the apology he received from a female driver.  He had gotten out of his truck as the woman rolled down her window to apologize, Wipperman pulled the car door opened, spit a mouthful of chewed food on the woman, and loudly began to curse her.  A true Southern gentleman.

Florida Man Martin Skelly, who carries 380 pounds on his 5' 9" frame. thought he could fool Pinellas County police by hiding his crystal meth in his bellybutton.  He was wrong.

A commuting Port Orange Florida Man took a taxi to and from a bank robbery.  Police made no mention if he paid the cabbie with some of the stolen loot.

Boynton Beach police are searching for a man who robbed a mall Taco Bell twice while also making himself a snack.  I am too cultured and readers of this blog are too delilcate for me to suggest how police can find this neer-do-well.

Miramar mayor and Florida Man nobody has ever heard of Wayne Messam has decided to drop his campaign for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination.   Messam threw his hat into the ring last March but has failed to garner any traction for his campaign.  Ya think?

And On the Positive Side:  Humpback whale population has bounced back from the brink of extinction, from just 450 to over 25,000

Camaroon man uses waste plastic bottle to build canoes for fishermen in need

Austrian government plans to turn Hitler's childhood home into a police station to deter neo-Nazi pilgrimms

Researchers discover a brain circuit that controls compulsive drinking, offering hope for an alcoholism cure

Thousands of dog lovers go on Facebook to describe their pups for a blind man

Actress Kristen Bell is using her Instagram account to help send thousands of gifts to teachers in need

First sickle cell disease patient to be treat with gene edited cells shows significant improvement

And, in this post from the 2015, this man moved an entire middle school to tears

"Remember there is no small act of kindness.  Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." -- Scott Adams

Today's Poem:
Grace for a Child

Here, a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand:
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all.     Amen

-- Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I wish you all a joyful and meaningful Thanksgiving.

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