Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saltpetre,gunpowder and libido

I remember from my youth, two brushes of a totally different nature with saltpetre ! There was an abiding mythology in the residences at the university that the food supplied to students in residence was adulterated with saltpetre. That, coupled with the equal myth that saltpetre reduced the libido of the young, was enough to foster a seasoning of mistrust! I was so shy in my first years of university that I would not have recognized saltpetres effect, real or fanciful. Moreover there is no scientific evidence of saltpetre producing a diminution of libidinous height or its implementation. More likely, worry, late nights, loneliness, maladaption and culture shock of the young, were the proximate causes. We never talked much about the suspicion because, in the early fifties we all still did exactly as we were told by our teachers and the institution and believed that they were always right, at least on the surface. The other contact with saltpetre and a more exciting remembrance, is making gunpowder in grade eight with my friends. We mixed saltpetre , ground charcoal, and powdered sulfur in equal proportion 'til the color was a dark and dirty green. I can still see in my mind today the color of our recipe . Little boys blowing up things in the town garbage dump ! What was the druggist,as he was known then, thinking of when he gave us those ingredients? In some ways it must have been a much freer time with less supervision. How we could have avoided blowing ourselves up is even more mysterious. Saltpetre and Brimstone, Sex, and Violence in the dump, Naivety and Innocence in the pediatric age.

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