2011.05.25 Leaded crystal brain cells.

Written by David Green.

Busy times call for history to repeat itself. Here's a column from the summer of 1991.

by David Green

Our front porch is getting yellower, but our brains are growing heavier.

I think we started our paint-scraping project on the porch last summer. We never got too far because we kept forgetting where we put the scraper.

Underneath the flaking white exterior is a rather durable layer of yellow. Actually, there are several layers involved, but scraping usually ends at yellow. Occasionally, we burrow to a deeper strata of gray.

Anyone coming onto our porch—and wading through the toys and shoes to reach one of the two doorbells that never worked—is faced with a lot of yellow blotches showing through. If visitors managed to get our attention, they at least found some fairly intelligent people inside the door—up until this summer when we all got dumb.

The problem is the paint dust we made from all that scraping. That old paint contains lead. We breathed the dust. Now we’re just another statistic in the U.S. Public Health Service files.

We were too dumb to know about the problem ahead of time. Now we’re too dumb to really understand it. We’ve all got lead in our brains.

Everybody knows about the ghetto kids eating paint chips and getting dumb. Now Newsweek magazine says anybody can get dumb—without even eating the stuff. Public health officials are now calling lead the No. 1 environmental threat to children. Lead-poisoned kids are not as smart as they were born to be.

Nothing to joke about, you say? Of course not. I’ve suffered on that porch through hours of 95º afternoons only to poison my family with a job that’s but half done. It’s nothing to joke about, but it certainly does explain a few things.

• Maddy runs into the house yelling, “Mom, where are you? Where are you?”

She hears the neighbors dog barking and she runs to the window and says, “Mitzie is barfing!”

• I asked Rosanna what she and her friend were going to do.

“We’re going to climb the wall and fall down,” she said. And they did.

• Ben came in hurt Saturday morning after he had an accident with his sister’s bike. The dummy had the handlebars turned around backwards.

I  know I shouldn’t call him a dummy, but lead has damaged his brain. He’s not the same kid anymore. Before Scraping, he never would have considered bringing home an old car battery from a neighbor’s curb. But he did it Saturday. He brought it home on the back of a Big Wheel. He even turned it over to see what was inside.

• Maddy runs naked outside, but she’s usually dressed inside. According to her sister, she’s begun to remove items from her nose and transfer them to her mouth. Nobody in their right mind...

Both sisters are having trouble breathing and walking at the same time and they have the scraped knees and faces to prove it.

Lead from paint dust affects children the most, says Newsweek, but adults don’t escape entirely. Take Colleen, for example. She’s been burning a lot of pancakes lately, and she’s often observed charging through a room with an addled look on her face, saying, “My brain, my brain!” She’s done a lot of scraping.

And me? I was stupid enough to walk barefoot across an open stamp pad the other night on the dark bathroom floor. Silly me. And last week in “Morenci Decades” I wrote that Dr. Keith Whitehouse retired 10 years ago. Dummy! It was only his 35th anniversary in 1991.

But mostly I just sit around staring vacantly out the window with a stupid look on my face. You know, like when the UFO guys come and talk to you and then every day after that your head snaps to the left every five minutes or so. You what know I mean. I’m so confused. I just wonder where I’m going to get the money for vinyl siding.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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