Sandboxes and Eating White Dirt

Do any kids still play in sandboxes?  I see plastic sand boxes advertised online, and they even come with bags of sand.  My sandbox was different.

    Daddy nailed four six-foot long 2x6s into a square, put a lip on top with 1x4s and filled it with sand.  To get the sand we drove to a sand road a few miles south of the house and filled the bed of the pickup with sand from the ditch.

    I spent hours making sandcastles. Many times they were made for toad frogs.  Tunnels were dug big enough for a toad and sometimes I would put a quart jar at the end so they had “windows.”  We caught toads and put them in the castles and tunnels and watched them move around.

    The most amazing sand structures I have ever seen were on the Baja Peninsular on a trip to the Sea of Cortez.  We stayed overnight in Loreto Mexico on the sea.  There was a big festival and part of it was a contest making sand statues on the beach.  Everything from forms of people that were very lifelike to airplanes, cars and buildings had amazing detail.

    A pier there was closed off and people were grilling different kinds of food to sell.  Across the entrance to the pier was yellow police tape with the words “Caution, Men Grilling!”

    I lived on Iron Hill Road, so named for the red clay and rocks everywhere.  Our farm was near the fall line where Georgia’s topography changes from rolling hills with lots of clay and rocks to flat sand lands.

    On the farm we never bought anything we could get for free. “Free” meant no money, much of that free stuff, like sand, required a lot of work.  Many times I helped shovel sand into the pickup to take to the farm for everything from making cement for chicken houses to filling in depressions in the yard.

    The difference between the farm and the area a few miles south is amazing. Sand Hill road is only a short drive from Iron Hill Road in McDuffie County. We never saw rattlesnakes on the farm but they were common in the sandy areas a few miles from us.

    What brought all this to my mind was seeing “white dirt” for sale in a local store.  Growing up, some of my friends at school from the sandy area brought chunks of this white dirt to school to eat.  It is a form of chalk and many very poor people ate it just to fill their stomachs. And it helped stop diarrhea.

    In the early 1960s mining companies came to my area and dug pit mines to get the seams of white dirt. We found out it is kaolin and is used for everything from making medicines and cosmetics to making the slick covering for magazine pages.

    Many of those mines were very deep. When they stopped the mining, the pits filled with water. I have never seen water that clear anywhere else.  It was a very light blue and seeped in so there was no sediment. You could see the bottom 25 feet deep.

    Unfortunately, with the steep sides, they were very dangerous.  Every year it seemed someone drowned in them on a swimming trip when they could not get back out of the water.  

    Its almost scary the memories seeing something as simple as white dirt for sale can bring.