Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Dangers of Candy and The Three-Legged Dog by Carol Ross



There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the danger of sugar in our diets.  There’s even a new movie playing in selected theaters, Fed Up, warning about the extreme health hazards of sugar.  Some experts are telling us that sugar is as addictive as heroin and as harmful as smoking.  (Yikes, when I was a kid the biggest concern was that it would ‘rot your teeth out.’)  I haven’t seen the movie yet but I plan to, and I’d like to take my young sugar-addicted nephews.  We all need to cut back on our consumption.  But with sugar being added to nearly everything these days, cutting back is about more than giving up the obvious goodies.  It is a daunting and difficult undertaking, which got me thinking…about candy.  And more specifically the lengths that we, as children, were willing to go to for even a small amount of this heavenly, sugar-filled miracle.

WARNING:  BEWARE OF CANDY!
 

When we, my siblings and I, were growing up we didn’t have access to candy like kids have nowadays.  Candy was a rare and special treat, mostly for holidays--Easter, Christmas, and that magical candy day known as Halloween. Candy seems to everywhere now, but when my sister, Tammy (who is closest to me in age) and I were young it took some serious, and dangerous, effort to get non-holiday candy. 
 
Our neighbors across the road in the rural ‘neighborhood’ we grew up in had two daughters who were roughly the same ages as Tammy and I. Like us, they had parents who subscribed to the ‘space shuttle’ style of parenting, in direct opposition to the ‘helicopter’ method that seems popular today.  You know--more of the ‘I-know-they’re-out-there-somewhere-but-I’m-not-sure-exactly-where’ than the ‘hovering.’  The four of us were best friends and remain close to this day, bonded by hours of shared chores, late-night ghost stories, and multiple near-death experiences--like the following...

Summers were especially free and we spent hours of these long, hot days plotting and executing our latest candy quest.  After days of trudging up and down the country roads collecting discarded cans to recycle and bottles to return for deposit, we would then throw our bags of loot into the back of Dad’s pickup and then wait impatiently for him to get a chance to drive to town and trade them for cash.  This took days, but in addition to washing cars and selling lemonade on the roadside, we would eventually collect a sufficient stash of coin to warrant a trip to the candy store.

But that was the easy part--because now we had to get to the candy.
This entailed riding bicycles to the country store/tavern (no I’m not making that up), Lottie’s, which was miles and several hills away.  These bikes were all ownerless, well-used hand-me-downs and passably functional at best--shoddy brakes, missing pedals, loose chains that dislodged when switching gears, etc.  But if even the front brakes worked inconsistently and the bike could only be ridden without switching gears we were good to go.  And, to make an already unsafe trip even riskier, often at least a pair of us rode double--with one rider either perched on the handlebars or backwards on the ‘banana seat.’  Helmets?  I’m sure only professional race car drivers were wearing them back then. 
 
But the biggest obstacle on our journey was not the distance, or the ramshackle bicycles, or even a fear of drunken strangers.  No, these things were mere snags easily overcome.  Our only real problem was (insert dramatic pause) The Three-Legged Dog.  


Imagine this coming at you in white!

Yes, he was as terrifying as he sounds.  The dreaded Three-Legged Dog was a white, lightning-fast, canine terror of snarling teeth and fangs that lived halfway down the largest and second-to-last hill on the way to Lottie’s.  Hence, the way there usually fell somewhere in the middle on the terror-inducing scale.  Yes, the dog would come after us--three legs of evil incarnate, lunging and snorting spit and fire but we were prepared. Clever, scrappy, candy-obsessed children that we were, we would begin pedaling furiously before coming upon the downward slope.  When we passed him we would be sailing at full speed--I’m guessing roughly fifty miles an hour down a narrow country road consisting of dangerous pebble-covered, cracked-and-patched asphalt.   We usually made it by the dog unscathed but his enraged bark rang like thunder and we could feel his hot breath on our heels.  By the time we made it up this last hill we were far enough away that he would abort his chase. Then our ragtag group would easily cruise the last half-mile or so to where the end of the rainbow awaited. 

It was the return trip that could be ripped from the pages of a horror novel.
The last hill (the first on the return trip) was probably only about half the size of the three-legged dog’s hill, so you had to pedal like mad all the way down in order to gain enough speed to make it up the other side to avoid being intercepted by the vicious devil hound. 

We probably succeeded at this fifty-percent of the time.  So when you were attacked you had to remember the drill; it was absolutely imperative to bail off on the opposite side from the dog, keeping the bicycle between you and the ferocious monster at all times.  You then had to do a sort of backwards scamper up the hill while simultaneously dragging the bicycle and using it as a shield.  This is when you prayed for a car to come by because the dog, upon seeing larger prey, would take off after the car and you could make a run for it.  Unfortunately cars were scarce.  So upwards, terrified, backwards you fought and fled toward the top of the hill.  Until, nearing exhaustion and close to the top, the dog would finally back off (after having successfully chased you out of his territory once again) and return to his lair.

After the attack it was easy sailing--just miles of baked concrete, hot sun and a sweaty hand clutching that brown paper bag full of hard-earned Wacky Wafers, Sixlets and Gobstoppers.  We would pedal home leisurely while munching on our candy, giggling and recalling our latest brush with death.  

I know cutting back on the sugar is the right thing to do--the healthy thing.  And it’s essential to set a good example for the kids.  But I worry.  If, as children, we were willing to run this demon-dog gauntlet time and time again, risking our lives for this tiny cache of candy--what chance do kids have these days with candy seemingly falling from the sky?  (Not to mention the sugar added to an estimated 80% of packaged foods?)  How can we possibly expect them to resist?

As an adult I’m still in trouble, because even as I’m becoming more and more aware of the addictive nature of sugar and all its accompanying evils and causes of potential health problems, there are days when I would gladly run barefoot over hot coals for an apple fritter.  Maybe if I had to actually do that now it would make me think twice, but I sincerely doubt it.  And besides, I have a car now--and a wallet full of change.  Take that Three-Legged Dog! 



31 comments:

  1. You totally made my morning, Carol! Boy did you bring back memories LOL. And you're so right about sugar. As someone who basically runs a custom kitchen at my house because of varying food allergies and needs in my family (including gluten free, garlic and onion free, one who is fructose intolerant etc...), I'd say the hardest thing to avoid is sugar. And trust me, I had to go strictly sugar free under doctor's orders (as in not even eating carbs for several weeks, followed by limited complex carbs later on) a few years ago, due to extreme inflammation that was wreaking havoc on my body internally. It did help tremendously and I stuck with it for two years before slowly falling victim to the addiction again. All it takes is one taste. I bet you could do another funny post on the rationalizations we come up with for 'just one bite' of that sweetness LOL. I've been trying to nix the sugar again. The first withdrawal hump to get by is like that hill of yours with the vicious dog!

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    1. Rula, Wow! I so admire you. I can only imagine how challenging it must be to face all of those food issues. It's difficult enough to TRY to eat healthy--all that planning and shopping and chopping. It can get expensive, too. It would so difficult if I HAD to do it, although it is easier for me to make those justifications you're referring to--it's a special occasion, it would be rude to turn down cake, I've been doing so well and deserve a treat, Oh, look--an apple fritter etc. LOL

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  2. Carol, I love this post. Especially the "space shuttle" description of parenting! When I was a kid we'd hold yard sales, fairs and plays to earn--one penny at a time--enough money to buy a cherry coke or Hostess cupcakes or even--gasp--one of those huge 5-cent candy bars. And yes, the bikes were old and the hills were steep. I could make my Halloween candy last until Easter, when the next batch of chocolate arrived. Alas, that willpower no longer exists!

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    1. Kristine, how funny! Yard sales and plays were also a part of our repertoire. My sister Tammy was a candy hoarder. She would make her holiday candy last, too, and then cruelly put it on display for me to drool over. LOL. One time I stealthily removed her chocolate bunny from the package and nibbled the back out of it and put it back in the package. Ha--it took her months to notice (but then I was in trouble....)

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  3. I am glad you are an author, Carol, because your descriptions are so vivid, I could visualize it all clearly. You made me smile!

    My memories about sugar consumption don't go quite that far back. I remember going to the local coffee shop with my university friends. I wasn't a big fan of the taste of coffee back then. I would add so much sugar to my cup that it would reach the saturation point and a syrupy mess would form on the bottom. (If you're grimacing, that's how my friends reacted as well.) While I no longer do that, my husband stocks these miniature candy-covered chocolate Easter eggs for me, and I love to have a couple in the evenings with a cup of tea. I still get my "sugar fix" but in moderation and in a more appealing way!

    Thanks for sharing this story, Carol!

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    1. Thank you, Kate, And I am grimacing about that coffee-sugar description LOL. Thankfully, I only like black coffee (and lots of it) so that's an easy one and a nice substitute (sometimes(: for a sugary treat. That moderation thing I really think is the key but it's so, so difficult!

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  4. Carol--like Kate I could see all of you kids going after candy and the triumph of getting it and beating out the dog. In reading your story the thought came to me that the difference between when you longed for candy and today's kids who get way too much sugar is partly the physical energy you expended to get the prize. And precisely because as kids we played outside for endless hours, running, bike riding and sidewalk skating in my neighborhood, we ran off those dreaded calories. Also--I think candy was different. I know the lovely Christmas chocolates tasted more like their fruity centers than the sugary taste of today's soft chocolates. PS--love your book cover. Roz

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    1. Roz, I think you're exactly right about burning off all those calories and staying in shape. We literally lived outside--we even slept out in the yard in sleeping bags often in the summer. If my dad caught us inside the house he would assume we were bored and give us extra chores! We were very creative in finding things to do. It's such a different world with all the "screen time" that kids have access too these days. And it seems like that candy did have more "flavor" than it does now....

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  5. You made me laugh so hard this morning! I can only imagine how harrowing it was to make that trip for candy. That dog sounds absolutely TERRIFYING! My neighbor and I used to walk home from school together and cut through some yards as a shortcut until his older brother told us that a crazy man with a rifle lived in one of the houses and he would shoot any kid who stepped in his yard. I can remember taking the dare to cut through there one day and running for my life because I was sure he was going to get me. Everything in life seems so much more dangerous when we're young!

    And don't get me started on sugar. I gave it up for Lent and it was so hard! Trying to keep my kids away from it seems pointless some days. I do try to stock my fridge with lots of fruits and veggies so they have those options when they want a snack but the sweet snacks are always the first to go.

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    1. It really was death defying to get that candy, Amy. And that dog was the stuff of nightmares, although now as an adult I have some sympathy for the poor guy. We can only assume he lost that leg chasing cars in the first place. It horrifies me to think about my dogs even going near the road, although it also horrifies me to think about allowing my nieces and nephews to ride miles to the store unsupervised, too LOL. Talk about a different world!

      I remember giving up candy and dessert for lent many times in my childhood. And the amazing feeling of finally getting my hands on that Easter candy.... Kind of like my apple fritter fix now. But it really is more difficult for kids now with so much sugar so accessible.

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  6. Love it Carol! I think what stood out to me most was the description of the ownerless bikes-just saying ownerless bikes, I could easily picture what you meant-brilliant. You're writing style is beautiful even in this post:) Great story! As for sugar-yeah, I stay away from it as much as possible and my husband is diabetic so even more reason to keep sweets out of the house. I discovered a sugar-free version of a chocolate 'turtle' that I love and that usually helps with the sugar cravings:)

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    2. Thank you, Jen! What a wonderful compliment (especially coming from you( because I think you're amazing (: Yes, we were regular bicycle mechanics! It was our primary mode of transport and we could literally piece and part these things together to make them go LOL! I admire your sugar-free life. It does seem much easier to keep the sweets out of the house completely--then I don't have to exercise so much self-control. If there's a pasty or an apple fritter in the vicinity I'm lost...

      My husband's sweet tooth is worse than mine, so I get no help there! Diabetes is a special kind of challenge, too, I imagine. You may have to share your "turtle" discovery with me?

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    3. Thank you for the compliment lol:) It's the Russell Stover's Pecan Delights-delicious!

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    4. I will try them! Anything to get me through one of those cravings...

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  7. Oh, I'm laughing.
    You made my morning. Someday I'll tell you about walking to the store in the snow



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    1. Pamela, I think you need to write that one down and share it here!

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  8. Carol! You're sort of a cross between Stephen King and Janet Evanovich! I laughed so hard. I can just imagine your fear, but with the kid-guts that forced you to face it to get that candy. I lived right downtown in an industrial area, a 1/2 block from the drug store where you could buy candy and ice cream, so, no such problems getting sugar. And I'm kind of a chicken, anyway. Had I had to go through what you went through to get candy, I'd be a svelte and gorgeous thing today without a macadamia cluster addiction.

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    1. Muriel, thank you! It felt as terrifying as any Steven King novel to us. And lucky you, having sugar so accessible! Although, in looking back I think it's probably a very good thing I didn't live that close to a store.I can only imagine the lengths I would have gone to, to get enough change to visit there every single day... My weakness today is definitely pastries--apple fritters and glazed donuts.

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  9. I need a big white three legged dog to live in my refrigerator. It would be much easier to stick to my diet!

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    1. Dana, I think we just invented something.... Let's make an infomercial!

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  10. I loved your story! It took me back to the summers we plotted to get to the store to buy penny candy. Wonderful memories.

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    1. Tara, they're actually wonderful memories for me, too--now. And the lengths we would go to for the money and the trip there... I think Roz is right about the efforts alone burning off the calories and keeping us fit back then. We needed the fuel just to get to the store and back LOL!

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  11. I was bitten by a dog like that! YIKES. I was terrified and entertained reading the entire piece. Thanks, Carol :) Loved it.

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  12. Karen, how awful! I was bitten once, too (not by this particular dog) but it was terrifying. I love dogs, but they really can be scary. And now I feel kind of sorry for this poor three-legged guy--probably lost his leg chasing cars in the first place and was still allowed to run around loose like that!

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  13. HI Carol! I just ordered your book Mountains Apart just yesterday!

    What a dog story! When I was small I witnessed the mauling of my best friend. It was made worse when the mother brought my mangled friend to my house for triage because my Mom was a nurse and I got to see it all over again until they could get Jane to the hospital. Like you and your friends, we learned tactics to avoid confrontations with that wild dog. Today that mean beast would be put down or confiscated. Not back then. We were forced to deal with it. Things have changed. I was afraid of dogs for a very long time. It wasn't until my kids were in jr high that I rounded the courage to have a dog. That ended up being a potato chip moment- since then we never have just one.

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    1. Lyndee, thank you! I really hope you enjoy it. Wow, that is quite a dog story, too! You're mom sounds amazing. I hope your friend didn't have any lasting health problems. I have also been attacked and bitten (by a different dog) and it was terrifying. Luckily, it never resulted in anything that severe. But you're right about it being a different world these days. I kind of feel sorry for that three-legged dog now because it shouldn't have been allowed to run around and chase cars/people. I'm so glad you got over your fear--I love dogs, too. We currently have two, but I tell you that feeling of terror can still creep over me sometimes when I'm around an aggressive dog.

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  14. Carol--both terrifying and hilarious! You all were so intrepid! My brother and I used to climb out my window just after daylight, shinny down a mimosa tree, and collect bottles on the beach, and then take them to the little grocery store, where we'd run into people already buying to make our next day's collections! Our ultimate score was a slushy and a licorice stick. We'd bite both ends off the licorice and use it as a straw. MmmmMmmmm good! ;-) If my credit card hadn't just been stolen, I'd be ordering your book right now! ;-)

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    1. Anna, how fun! It sounds like you can relate to our spirits of adventure. We were constantly scheming.... Oooh...and slushies...yum! But, how horrible about your credit card. My sister had this happen and it was awful, but luckily the credit card company took good care of her. I hope you get it reconciled soon.

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  15. I love this story, Carol. The perils you will go through to reach your candy nirvana!

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    1. Exactly, Syndi! Like I said above...I'm not much better now than when I was a kid. I'm just more mobile.

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