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The Story of Uncle Scott and the Pine Gum
-written by Charlotte Corry, July 2001
I was probably somewhere between the ages of ten and fourteen years old, and I was at the Corry reunion again. I spent most of my time at these reunions hanging around with two cousins my age, Julie, and Michelle. We would roam all around the camp, pretending we were this or that, and having a great time. One thing that particularly interested us were the many pine trees in the camp. We would get little cups, and go around taking the sap from the tree trunks and adding it to our cups.
At some point, Uncle Scott noticed us, and told us he could teach us how to make chewing gum out of the pine sap. We were all ears, and all eyes, as he demonstrated. First he took a goodly amount of pine sap, put it in a water-filled container, and boiled it over the fire for a little while. Then (and he did this extremely quickly), he took the sap out of the container, popped it in his mouth, chewed it furiously, and the next thing we knew, he was pulling a string of white gum out of his mouth--gum that looked very much like the kind you would buy at any convenience store.
Well, we were VERY excited! We immediately went out to gather the cleanest pine sap that we could find. We came back, and Uncle Scott supervised us as we boiled it in water, just as he had. When he finally said that it was ready, Michelle and I popped it in our mouths (Julie had braces at the time, and so wasn’t able to join us in this part), and began to chew furiously, wondering how long it would be until we had white spearmint-flavored gum as well. The pine gum was AWFUL--at least as awful as you might expect pine gum to be. It stuck to our teeth, and ingrained its flavor into our tongue, and still we chewed and chewed, checking every minute or so to see if it was changing its properties. To our dismay, the gum stayed the same dirty yellow color, with the same piney-awful flavor. Had we not seen Uncle Scott’s performance earlier, we surely would have started to doubt--but we couldn’t deny that we had SEEN this method work, less than an hour previous.
I don’t remember how long Uncle Scott let us carry on in this matter--it seems like it was quite a long time, but finally, he pulled us aside, and told us of his secret. He had hidden a little piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum in a corner of his cheek, and exchanged that for the pine sap during his little demonstration. Of course, our gum would NEVER turn to spearmint gum, any more than his had.
Upon hearing this, Michelle and I immediately spit out the pine gum, and tried to do whatever we could to get the taste out of our mouths (nothing worked, and I had the unpleasant sensation of pine gum in my mouth for several more days). Julie, who had originally felt very disappointed that she hadn’t been able to chew the gum with us, spent a fair amount of time giving us good-natured ribbing about the whole situation. And Uncle Scott? He just laughed and laughed. In later years, whenever he and I would start to reminisce about past reunions and past experiences, I would throw that one up at him, and tease him about what a mean trick that was to play on three trusting nieces. He would get a mischievous smile on his face, and begin to laugh until (often) tears would come out of his eyes as he would describe those little girls, chewing and chewing that nasty gum.