OK, I will admit I was sort of showing off my knowledge of Latin, which isn’t all that good, and chemistry, which is even worse, with today’s post title, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway.
Of course, even if you’ve stopped by now, you’ve still added to my pageview stats, so thanks for that.
Anyway, plumbum is the Latin word for lead, which I learned a long time ago just because I was curious as to why lead’s symbol on the periodic table was Pb. My big brother Duane, a chem whiz who’s now a Portland physician, clued me in.
While my studious sibling has obviously contributed a great deal to my life, it is my multitalented brother-in-law Denny whom we pay homage to today.
For it was Denny, one of the most good-hearted guys the world has yet produced, who decades ago constructed for yours truly a present for the ages:
In case you were wondering, it’s a lead box, and I had wanted one badly.
Why? Well, it’s like this:
I grew up reading Superman comic books, and of course the Man of Steel’s only vulnerability was to Kryptonite, the fragments of his birth planet that ended up scattered throughout the universe when that world blew up.
There were different colors of Kryptonite, the two main ones being red, which had unpredictable and often goofy effects, and green, which was extremely toxic and would be fatal with long enough exposure.
Luckily, Kryptonite’s harmful rays could be blocked by lead. Equally fortunate for Superman, there seemed to be a lot of lead boxes around for Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen et al to stuff Kryptonite into when they’d stumble onto him being exposed to it (Kryptonite was not harmful to non-Kryptonians).
That’s why I wanted a lead box: Because the people in the comic books had them.
So unbeknownst to me one day, Denny fashioned that box, which is about 4 inches by 5 inches by 2 inches, out of sheet metal and then melted a lead pipe over the top of it. I was maybe 10 at the time, and Denny was in his 20s.
The original product came with a bare wooden handle atop the lid, but then Denny, bless his heart, realized that the handle needed to be covered in lead too, lest the rays from my pretend Kryptonite escape through that chink in the box’s armor. So he made the modification that you see, rendering the handle useless given its small size and awkward shape relative to the significant weight of the lid itself; still, I really appreciate his conscientiousness, and the lid is easy enough to get on and off sans a functioning handle.
I stumbled onto the box on Sunday when, long story short, I’d been going through a whole bunch of my childhood items in search of my elementary school class photographs. Alas, I did not find them, but they will turn up eventually I am sure.
I opened the box and found not any fake Kryptonite but rather three sand dollars, a thunder egg, a piece of obsidian and five other minerals I can’t identify; geology was never really my thing.
btw, journalism is my thing mainly because of those Superman comic books. Loved and was fascinated by the Daily Planet. I invariably get a laugh when I tell that to tour groups or students at the career day events I speak at, but it’s true.