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Little Pearl and the Hot Box

Little Pearl hated to get wet, really hated it, hated getting wet worse than about anyone I ever knew.



THE AFTERNOON WAS hot for late November, hot and muggy and threatening to come up a storm. Across the prairie to the west we could see black clouds a-roiling.

We were putting on codling moth traps, 5-inch strips of corrugated cardboard treated with some volatile, viciously caustic chemical. We scraped the tree trunks clean of bark there in the old apple orchard, old trees so big it took two men to reach around. We scraped off loose bark, hibernating homes of the codling moth, then tacked on the corrugated strip.

The chemical was so caustic it would numb our fingers in a matter of minutes, so we wore heavy rubber gloves and took care not to wipe the sweat out of our eyes.

When the first big drops of rain begin to fall, Little Pearl started for the fruit shed, half a mile away, started for the packing shed at a run. He didn’t make it.

Little Pearl was almost a midget, just barely five feet tall, likely 45 or 50 years old at the time. Little Pearl was Preacher Patterson's son, Preacher Patterson the blacksmith. Little Pearl drove an ancient Buick touring car, one he had to crank to get its engine going. Little Pearl was my workmate on this job; his being short made it a little easier.

Little Pearl hated to get wet, really hated it, hated getting wet worse than about anyone I ever knew. When the first big drops of rain begin to fall, Little Pearl started for the fruit shed, half a mile away, started for the packing shed at a run. He didn't make it. Those clouds coming in from the west were moving faster than Little Pearl and I, and soon we could hear the real rain coming right behind us.

Here came Little Pearl, jumping and dancing and running every whichaway like a thousand hornets were on him.

Little Pearl spotted a refuge just ahead, a big cardboard packing box,and he snuggled down inside it warm and dry just as the hard rain hit.Warm and dry and secure -- for about a half a minute. I was still headed for shelter, sopping wet now and slowed to a soggy trot, when came from behind me this blood-curdling scream. Here came Little Pearl, jumping and dancing and running every whichaway like a thousand hornets were on him.

Little Pearl's cardboard house had been the packing box for our corrugated bands -- and Little Pearl's body heat had been enough to evaporate the caustic chemicals left in the cardboard. Every inch of Little Pearl must have been on fire; he tore off his clothes, rolled in the mud over and over again, ran for the pond and jumped into the blue mud at the side.

Little Pearl sure did hate to get wet.






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