10 July 2012

in which i eat a dime and have a grand adventure {part 3}

Part 3 of a story about the time I ate a dime while my family was on RAGBRAI.

Don't know what RAGBRAI is? You should probably read Part 2, which explains it.

Want to hear the beginning? You should probably read Part 1, which is, obviously, the beginning.


It was late July, and my sister Oesa and I needed a purpose.

On RAGBRAI, everyone else in our family had a purpose: either bike 60ish miles a day through the cornfields, or drive the car to the next town and set up camp so that when the rest of the family got in town—hot, sweaty, unable to feel their legs—the tents were already up for them to lay down in after showering.

But since Oesa and I were only 5 and 3, there wasn't much expected of us. Oh, I'm sure we helped choose our campsite {proximity to a playground is worth 10 points on the Campsite Selection Scale}, and maybe we even helped pitch the tents. Perhaps my chubby toddler fingers were put to work grasping a chubby toddler hammer to drive the stakes in.

Mostly, though, Oesa and I were along for the ride. Literally, on some days; our mom would pull us in a buggy behind her bike.

Being a demanding and ornery child, I spent my time in the buggy in two ways: telling my mom to go faster up those rolling Iowa hills, and pinching my sister.

It was hot and sticky in that buggy, and why admire scenes of the heartland {or, as they are called in Iowa's slogan, Fields of Opportunity} when you can annoy your sister?

A couple of days into RAGBRAI, a plan formed to give Oesa and me a purpose: we would run a Kool-Aid stand.

I don't know who came up with this plan.

Was it my mom, eager to be away from a 3-year-old who thought she was a Roman centurion riding in a chariot?
This is how I envisioned myself when I was riding in the buggy behind my mom's bike. Please note: I don't think my mom is a horse. Mostly, I just thought I was in charge.

Was it my dad, eager to get his daughters interested in business early?

Or was it my sister and me, eager to contribute to the family's bottom line, thereby enabling us to buy more pork tenderloin sandwiches? {You can read more about those pork tenderloin sandwiches here.}

Whoever came up with this Kool-Aid plan, it was genius.

Who, on a hot day in the midst of a bike ride across Iowa, wouldn't want to stop to get a refreshing glass of Kool-Aid being hawked by a chubby Roman centurion 3-year-old and her big sister who didn't like to be pinched?

People who hate the first flowers of spring and Bambi: those are the only people who would be able to resist this Kool-Aid.

I mean, this was quality Kool-Aid. I probably mixed it up by swishing my fingers in it—fingers that until two seconds before had been, most likely, grabbing handfuls of dirt to eat.

I loved dirt, by the way. I even once ate some red rock out in Utah because I liked how, if you sucked on a piece long enough, it would crumble in your mouth, much like an Everlasting Gobstopper but tasting of dirt.

{And by once, I mean many, many times. What? I went to Utah a lot as a kid. You have to find some way to entertain yourself out in the desert, and there's only so long you and your sister can play "Create Your Own Steeplechase Course and Pretend to Be Horses."}

Oesa and I set up our Kool-Aid stand on the edge of the campground and began our attempt to drain all the money from all the riders on RAGBRAI, one nickel at a time.

Yes, our Kool-Aid was a nickel. It was 1985; things were a lot cheaper back then. In the good ol' days, you know.

{I think I might've just become the blog equivalent of an old-timey person sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, gray hair uncombed, chin hairs untweezed, looking caustically out at the drought-plagued fields and cackling out, "Back in my day..."}

Here in Glen Ellyn, by the way, I went by a lemonade stand the other day where the little girl was selling one glass for a dollar. I almost balked at buying it until I remembered that it's a dollar, and I spend that on approximately 1.27 sips of a double espresso.

That day on RAGBRAI, Oesa and I made, in 3-year-old interpretation of money, a bazillion dollars.

In reality, it was probably just enough to cover the cost of the Kool-Aid packets {a business cost underwritten by our dad}, and we had no real sense of "overhead" costs. But we were in business, and learned important lessons such as:
  • Charge more than a nickel.
  • Yelling at people to come drink your Kool-Aid is not considered an effective form of advertising.
  • When you lose interest in the Kool-Aid stand after about seven minutes because you're 3 years old, you'll still have to stick around and work. And then help clean up. This is all so you can learn "responsibility" and so that many years in the future when you have a real job and it's really pretty out but you're stuck behind a computer, you'll remember the lesson of the Kool-Aid stand: stick with it, and you can have as much sugary drink as you want.

The most important lesson of the Kool-Aid stand didn't come until the next day, and this lesson was aimed directly at my sister. It's not a universal lesson at all, so don't expect to pick up any life tips here.

The Most Important Kool-Aid Lesson: Do not come between a 3-year-old and the Kool-Aid profits she deserves.

The next morning, Oesa and I were in the back seat of the family car, divvying up our proceeds while our dad ran into a gas station to buy us candy so that we'd be well-behaved that day.

Oh, there's a universal lesson for you: candy bribery does work for small children, and it should be used in extreme situations, such as halfway through RAGBRAI when you're not sure you and the children will make it all the way across the state of Iowa without you throwing them into a corn field to become children of the corn.

"A nickel for you, a nickel for me. A nickel for you, a nickel for me." Oesa, being the big sister, was in charge of profit disbursement. I watched her hands fly over those nickels and dreamed of the My Little Ponies I could buy with all that money.

"Oh, there's just a dime left," Oesa said, looking up at me and then sliding the dime to her side. "I'll take that because I'm older."

Okay, I may have thought that my $1.25 of nickels could buy me Starshine or Fairy Rainbow Princess, or whatever My Little Ponies were named back in the early 80s.

I may have been slightly confused about how far money would go, but I was not confused on this point: a dime is worth more than a nickel, and "It's mine because I'm older" is an illogical argument big sisters have been trying to pull on little sisters for millennia.

She wasn't going to get away with this one.

My little hands may have been chubby, but I had quick movements, honed by minutes of stirring Kool-Aid with my fingers. While Oesa was still looking at me, I reached across the seat, scooped up the dime, and swallowed it.

Victory was mine!

I had beaten my big sister!

I was rich and could now buy all the My Little Ponies!

Except: I couldn't talk.

I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, but when my dad, having just returned to the car with his candy bribes of M&Ms and Twizzlers, put his finger down my throat to get me to—to put it politely—bring that dime back up, I knew that my plan had not gone well and that I wasn't going to be eating any of that candy any time soon.

With that dime firmly lodged above my voice box—keeping me silent for once—we rushed to the hospital.


Coming soon: Do I still have a dime somewhere in my body, or did the doctors get it out?


  1. Kamiah!! Oh my goodness. I've been wondering when you would continue this story. Violet has started putting things in her mouth and I've actually considered removing all change from our house. Can't wait for part 4!

  2. Erica, hide all the money! You and David should start using only debit cards for everything so there are NO COINS in the house :)

    Glad you're enjoying the story!



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