Wednesday, April 1, 2009


A friend and colleague, born abroad but raised in this country, is maybe 15 or 20 years younger than I, so his elementary education is out of synch with my own by about that many years. His education, of course, extends beyond - waaayy beyond - grade school. He's an MD, MPH, and MBA, a well educated and smart guy if there ever was one.

I recently enjoyed an online photo album of his and his wife's travels to places like New Zealand, Bora Bora, Vietnam, and China. One of his photos, taken very recently in a Beijing food market, shows a layout of what look to me to be tiny sharks on skewers, fried scorpions, some cricket-looking things (or are they waterbugs, aka, giant cockroaches??) on a stick, and so on. (Honestly, we never saw any such things for sale when we were in China in 1980 or in 1983. This is probably a good thing.) His own caption identifies the items on the tray as "scorpions, grasshoppers, and weebles."

By weebles, I suspect he meant weevils. Now every American who grew up with my cohort has heard of BOLL weevils. I gather my friend's elementary education occurred just long enough after mine that boll weevils had, for reasons unknown, been dropped from the fourth grade American history curriculum. Today I asked a girlfriend, who is just about my age, if she remembers boll weevils. She said, "oh, sure, they were some kind of insect infestation of the cotton crops of the South." That is all I too remember, but neither of us had the slightest idea of why this particular plague was important enough to make the history books (or when it was, or anything about its context). So much for history pedagogy!

I've since Wikipedia-ed it, and refreshed my memory of the evil weevils' story. It turns out that the plague occurred in the 1920s, approaching the Great Depression (could the timing have been worse?) and was a major part of the economic history of the cotton-growing states. Something I could not appreciate at the age of 10. I wonder, though, where the weebles went as far as the enlightenment of fourth-graders a half a generation later is concerned?

ADDENDUM April 4, 2009
It turns out the generational joke is on me. I talked to my friend who I thought was identifying weevils and weebles, and it turns out he was thinking of Weebles, a line of roly-poly toys that came out in the 1970s. Had I been of the roly-poly toy age in 1973, I might have caught on sooner!


  1. Hehe - love the weebles word! We have native insects here that are part of the weevil family.

    Where did he travel in New Zealand?

  2. Exactly! I suppose it's the Chinese pronunciation of the English word. Reminds me of the witchity grubs the Aussies eat. Lots of fat and protein, very healthy for people who need calories of that sort (as the Aborigines did before we brought them junk food).
    I'm sorry but I don't know where all my friend and his wife went in NZ. They live on the east coast, so we don't see each other often enough. But I envy their global adventuring spirit!
    I also meant to comment on the sadly premature death of your brother. At least he was doing something he loved when it happened. I came across a very similar scene in Grand Teton in 2007, and had the same thoughts then. The poor guy probably never knew what hit him, but until the moment it did (and he and his bike went down an embankment) he was doubtless enjoying the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and smell of the pines.

  3. Yes you are right - he died doing what he loved. And with his boots on.

    He was a volunteer fireman (an officer)in the small town where he lived. There is no ambulance in their town, the firebrigade double as paramedics and are the first response to accidents. So it was his own crew who attended - they were devastated.

    He had also been a Police Officer and the fire brigade and Police took a large role at his funeral.

    He was my little brother, my only remaining member of my family - we lost another brother at age 25. Sudden deaths at a young age related to heart problems are a common thread through the men folk in our family.