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  • I love the smell of dirt. It conjures up so many fond memories, so many images of life. It mixes so well with other smells, and depending on the mixture, the memories differ, but all are good ones. I love dirt.

    When I go to my shed halfway down the hill of my backyard, usually to get out the lawnmower, I am met with the most delicious aroma combination of all as I pop the lock and swing open the door. Dirt, oil, and gasoline. Ahhhhhh!!! It always takes me back to Uncle Roman's dirt cellar under the cottage at Pymatuming Lake. Uncle Roman, that mad wizard, his dirt cellar his kingdom. Aunt Lollie queened over the cottage upstairs, but down in the cellar, Uncle Roman ruled. Here he invented, concocted, made magic, and accepted all as his equal. Here, he was in his element. Dirt. Oil. Gasoline. Heaven - right here on earth.

    Dirt by itself brings back many fond memories. That first year in our first home, the house by the lake. First, it was the septic system. Had to dig up two 50 foot long trenches, the drainage fields, leach fields, and re-lay them properly. An impossible task, but no flushing until it got done. All the friends who just showed up from South Philly to help out, especially Mike Monk, who just plowed through those leach fields with that shovel like he was cutting butter with a knife, in the pouring rain, no less. Good times.

    Digging the 4 foot trench all the way around that house to insulate the "non-crawl" space with celetex panels. Then to discover the house is sinking, and need to redo the whole foundation! Mixing the concrete with the sand, cement and stones, building the foundation, one pier at a time, every single weekend from early March to late October that year, same drill - home on Friday, jack the house up with three 20-ton hydraulic jacks, dig down 4 feet, lay in a foot of the concrete, let it set overnight, Saturday mix the mortar, lay in the cinder blocks, two across, three high,let it set up, Monday morning, lower the jacks, then back to work in Philly. Built the foundation of that house - built the foundation of our life together. Dirt always reminds me of that.

    Playing shortstop and third base on countless diamonds throughout the county, all dirt diamonds, no two the same. On some, the dirt is hard and the ball bounces high, comes at you FAST, must be focused at all times, reflexes on high alert. Others, the dirt is soft, and the ball takes its grand old time getting to you, and will skidder right under your glove if you don't get it down there, you gotta charge that ball, scoop it up, and fire it to first on the run to get the runner in time. Dirt is the challenge.

    One of my favorite softball players was nicknamed "Dirt". He was in the on-deck circle, when the umpire looked over at his leg, with an open cut on the knee bleeding bright red blood down his leg, and said "You can't play with that blood showing like that - league rules." I quickly dug in my bag for my first aid kit, with wipes and bandaids and what-not, while James just reached down and picked up a fistful of dirt, threw it on his bleeding leg until it was all brown, and strode up to the plate with his bat, looked defiantly at the Ump and said, "Does that satisfy the league rules?" Blue let him bat.

    From that day forward, his name was "Dirt".
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