Monday, November 20, 2006

Mount Mess

When I was in fifth grade, we had an assignment to create a volcano at home. Then everyone was supposed to bring them in and we would make the erupt (with some sort of chemical concoction that would spew red liquid out of the top). Pretty standard stuff.

As was typical for my entire education career, I started making my volcano the night before it was due. And by 'started', I mean that I didn't even have any sort of material for making the volcano so the whole nights work started with a trip to a local store to buy volcano-making supplies.

I assume the intention was for us to make the volcanoes out of something like paper maché. I don't know exactly what it was that we bought, but it wasn't paper maché. It was white, with the consistency of rice pudding. I worked the giant, slimy, chunky pile into something that was vaguely the shape of a volcano and called it complete.

A few hours later, the soggy, gently vibrating mess didn't look any different. I started wondering exactly how long this stuff took to dry. I don't recall exactly but I think it was somewhere in the 24-48 hour range. I had about 10.

There was only one solution, and that was heat-assistance. So into the oven went my wobbly pile of mystery material. Whatever it was didn't smell particularly good as it was baking. It also didn't seem to be actually drying. There was a slight crust forming on the outside edges, but that was it. At this point, there wasn't a whole lot I could do. So I went to bed hoping the stupid thing would dry by the next morning when I had to bring it to school.

Despite my lack of planning on the volcano project in general, I did manage to arrange for my Mom to give me a ride to school in the morning, so I didn't have to try to take the still-not-dry volcano on its rather large board on the bus.

We arrived at school just before all the buses showed up. For some reason I headed up to the building by myself, backpack on, balancing the volcano on its board with my two little stubby fifth-grader arms.

Somehow, during the struggle to hold the wiggling, soggy volcano on its board and open the school door, disaster struck. The volcano started slide of its board, and while trying to recapture it the whole volcano/board tipped out of control and I dropped it.

I was not a particularly tall kid, but I was plenty tall enough for the board and volcano to reach a substantial velocity before striking the ground. Upon which, the still-undried-volcano shot off the board and splattered all over the ground.

At precisely that moment, every school bus in the city pulled up and disgorged hundreds of kids just in time to see my volcano splatter all over the front sidewalk of the school. With me standing there with my mouth open, in stunned silence.

The odd nature of whatever it was I had made my volcano out of meant that there was a large, white, chunky puddle immediately in front of half the doors to the school. Even better, the wet material had an odd odor. Basically it looked like three or four kids had thrown up half-digested rice pudding all over.

My teacher was somewhat disbelieving of the whole ordeal. She nicknamed my stinky, soggy volcano leftovers Mount Mess, and the name stuck. I believe my yearbook from that year even has some 'kind' fifth-grader comments about 'Mount Mess'. It was the talk of at least my grade for weeks. Which is approximately a lifetime in fifth-grader time.


Brenden said...

That's awesome. Ahhh, the good ol' days of waiting until the last minute...wait, I still do that.

Bill Roehl said...

We did the volcano thing in third grade and I believe that we used our own home mixture of paper mache stuff.

My father helped me to build a chicken wire mesh that we stuffed with paper and then laid paper mache all over the top.

I always thought the vinegar/baking soda mixture "experiment" was a bit lame but whatever -- apparently everyone does it.

My nicknames in school were less friendly and usually picked by students rather than teachers. Unfortunately, they stuck until I left high school and even continued to surprise people when I came home with a wife in tow over the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving guys!

Steve Eck said...

Brenden, Clearly the problem wasn't that I started the day before, it was just that we bought the wrong volcano-making supplies. Clearly.

Bill, I guess we were a little slower here in Minnesota. I distinctly recall making hot-air baloons out of paper mache in third grade (though in school, not at home). But I am pretty sure the volcano was a few years later.