Damned Gum Balls

Blood oozed from his head, in pain from a sudden slip and fall along the pathway to our front door. Our guest was a friend of a friend's who had joined us for dinner. It was dark outside as he walked along our path back to his car. Suddenly, he felt something round under his foot that left him clutching for the air above as he lost his footing. Thankfully, he was alright, minus the scrape along the back of his head. 

I've come to hate the damned gum balls that fall from the trees into our yard each autumn. Don't let the name of the tree fool you, Sweet Gum, there's nothing sweet about them. They even have a bunch of different names to confuse homeowners: American sweetgum, American storax, hazel pine, bilsted, redgum, satin-walnut, star-leaved gum, alligatorwood, and Liquidambar styraciflua for you tree nerds. 

If you think stepping on a piece of Lego hurts, try taking a casual stroll beneath one of these suckers this time of year. Each time the kids run outside in socks or bare feet to play with Peggy, I cringe that they will fall victim too. 

In fact, I almost unknowingly impaled Sam as I ran the lawnmower over a pile of gum balls recently. They projected from the machine at him like he was trapped in a batter's cage with the machine gone all Maximum Overdrive.

One man's trash is another one's treasure 

We bought our house because of all of the trees on our lot. This time of year, the Sweet Gum trees change color and are quite pretty. For a moment (just a moment), I consider how much I enjoy them. Then I remember what lies beneath, waiting for its prey. 

I decided to read up more on the evils of gum balls and discovered, to my horror, that they are treasured items to others. A quick search revealed multiple sellers on Etsy!

Sweet Gum Tree Balls

One description reads, "These look great as home decor with some real or fake red berries in a bowl for the holidays, in potpourri as decorative filler, or use to make ornaments." 

Even during a Thanksgiving stroll through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I discovered packaged gum balls for sale. The packaging called them "Pork-E-Pine Eggs". When left in a cool, dry place for seven months, they would hatch into baby pen-cushions.

Now how could a spiky ball function as a comfortable pen-cushion? Perhaps it was a typo that was supposed to read "pin-cushion". Still, who would want to stick a pin and watch these nasty things ooze? Yuck. 

But somebody buys gum balls. Enough people buy them to warrant packaging them and selling them in stores and online.

If I asked Peggy, I am certain she would tell me how much she loves them. Each time I'm outside with her in our yard, she adorably picks up a gum ball in her mouth, drops it, and happily paws it across the yard. The gum balls have become wonderful play toys for our little puppy.

Another man's treasure.