Dance with a Snake?

There was a huge deep freeze on our back porch. It was mammoth and full of ice. It was so big that you couldn’t get to the bottom of it unless you climbed in. The sides were so thick that the Department of Defense had designated it as a fallout shelter.

The light in the lid had stopped working, so it required a flashlight to get a good look at the contents. We’d have to lean in and perch ourselves precariously on the edge to dig for frozen treats. The freezer seemed to last forever. In fact, the old white freezer ended up being repainted by mom with green spray-paint. Now……that was attractive. Of course, it fit right in with the fall-out shelter designation.

When we lived in White City, the parsonage had an enclosed back porch where this large appliance sat. Everything from meat, to frozen vegetables, and if we were lucky, ice cream or popsicles, were kept inside.

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You have to remember that we were good, god-fearing, small-town, Kansas Methodists. Crazy radical things just weren’t done. I believe it was the writer, Garrison Keillor, who talked on his program, A Prairie Home Companion, about Methodists drinking hot coffee at church dinners in July and August. They just weren’t known for their wild and crazy side.

We were always having church dinners and a yearly ice cream social. For us, it was normally homemade vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and occasionally, black walnut ice cream. Of course every church had that one lady who was sort of odd, always talked too loud, lived with 12 cats and would bring the odd flavor to the ice cream social; grape, orange, or even rhubarb!

Calm vanilla and relaxed chocolate were the norm at our house until one evening when dad returned from Emporia. He’d been taking a college class at Emporia State in the evenings. We always looked forward to his return, because he might stop at the Dolly Madison factory store and get cupcakes or pies.

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On this evening he came in with several sacks full of ice cream! It was incredible. He kept bringing in sack after sack after sack. It looked like heaven had come to earth in the form of ice cream. He quickly loaded the half gallon cartons into the deep freeze.

As he put the cartons into the freezer I read “Ice Milk” and asked what that was. I was quickly reassured that it was the same as ice cream and maybe even better.

Oh boy, we’ve struck the mother lode! It looks like a source of ice cream that should last for years!! How many boxes of ice cream did you get, dad? “I got about 30 of them and they were only 29 cents apiece. I got every box they had!” he replied proudly.

Excitedly, I asked….What is it? Vanilla?…. chocolate?……or maybe strawberry?……

“Spumoni”….

“Uh…….What?”

“Spumoni.”

“…….But that sounds like a kind of fish…”

“No, No, it’s a delicious kind of ITALIAN ice cream. You’ll love it”, dad reassured us.

“OK., but…..what other flavors did you get?”

“Just……Spumoni.”

“I can’t believe someone hadn’t snatched it all up before I got there”, dad said.

Next he opened a carton and we eagerly gathered around to look at what appeared to be vanilla with some nuts, an unknown red substance with fruit, and green stuff with nuts……..I was in confusion. This looked nothing like ice cream, but the result of an accident. There were colors and ingredients I had never even considered putting together in ice cream……I was repulsed!…..It might as well be pork chops in chocolate or strawberry with liver chunks!….None of these substances had any business being in the same ice cream.

I’m sure there are entire countries where these flavors are banned. I don’t believe that spumoni is mentioned anywhere in the old or new testaments, and even though I am not of the Mormon faith, I’ve never had anyone come to my door and ask if I’d like to discuss my personal relationship with Spumoni. In fact, I have it on good authority that the original version of the Geneva Convention banned, among other forms of torture, the serving of spumoni to prisoners of war. The founding fathers didn’t write life, liberty, and the pursuit of spumoni! They even tried serving Spumoni at the Army Survival Training School, but nobody was surviving so they had to change flavors.

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In secret congressional testimony on the Guantanamo Bay prison, the CIA testified that when it came to torture they drew the line at Spumoni. Water boarding was one thing, but serving Spumoni to prisoners was something even they weren’t willing to do.

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Famous sea explorer, Jacques Cousteau, had many specials exploring marine life and creatures of the sea. I’m sure there was at least one where he swam with the wild spumoni of the Mediterranean Sea. Or was it the Great Spumoni migration of the Arctic? I’m not sure, but I really thought it was some kind of sea creature. It sure sounded like a fish.

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Given all this information, why had dad been so wild and bought such a crazy flavor of ice cream,……in bulk I might add. Had he gone off his rocker? Were his true colors finally beginning to show?…. Was he secretly wanting to change church denominations to one of those where they dance in the church aisles, hold poisonous snakes, speak in tongues, and eat Spumoni? What if taking a class in Emporia was just a cover story for attending some new and wild church? After the spumoni, would the next thing be him bringing home snakes for us to carry around? I’d never seen my dad walk fast, let alone dance…. in aisles or otherwise. What could be happening? My little world had turned upside down……

That evening, we all tried a small bowl of the new substance, which was actually ice milk and not ice cream, so it wasn’t creamy…….It did not go over well.

After taking that first tentative bite,…. I went into shock……as though I’d just been thrown into ice cold water. My senses went haywire….the receptors in my tongue were reporting flavor combinations and my mind was rejecting the information as being impossible. It was like a computer on Star Trek repeating “does not compute, does not compute.” and then self-destructing……The stomach then chimed in asking if it should reject the whole mouthful of this unknown cold substance. It assured me that it wouldn’t be hard to get rid of…..Just give it the nod and it’s all on the floor….SPLAT!

Luckily for me the brain shook off the initial shock and said just put the bowl down and step away…..Just step away from the bowl.

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Dad ended up being the only eater of spumoni. I’m not sure if he got it on the hunch that the rest of us would reject it, leaving him with a lifetime supply of spumoni. On the other hand, I suspect dad didn’t really like spumoni that much, but wasn’t about to let us know the truth. He did have a bit of an ornery streak sometimes.

One bit of telling evidence is that, despite him “liking” the flavor, we lived in White City 5 years, Girard 3 years and Riley 5 years. I’m pretty sure the last several half gallons were finally thrown out at Riley, which means it wasn’t getting eaten that quickly.

After years of reflection…. and treatment… I’ve come to my own conclusion.

Dad had actually been a good Methodist. In fact he’d shown his ability to be open-minded to new cultures and new flavors. He was acting frugally, while being accepting to the ways of others as Jesus had taught……………….He was being a good christian? Right?

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Naaaah……… who are we kidding…….. it was REAL CHEAP and he couldn’t resist the price! The carton could have simply said “Frozen Unknown White Substance” and he would have bought it, if it was cheap enough! That was our Daddy!

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For years I would dig through that freezer and excitedly find an old half gallon of frost covered ice cream, only to be crushed when I found the carton said “Spumoni”.

The Great Spumoni Purchase of 1970 should give us all pause to reflect on the importance of child welfare laws in our country. To remember that traumatic incidents in a child’s early life can lead to a lifetime of problems. For me, the mere utterance of the word spumoni can cause a gag reflex. It’s like in Harry Potter, the name that no one is allowed to say.

As for spumoni ice cream……………… I’d rather dance with the snake.


Published by John Purvis

I was born and raised in Kansas as part of a family of 7 children. My father was a minister in the United Methodist Church for 50 years. We moved, consequently, every few years to a new church. Each new location became a new chapter in the journey. I have had the privilege of knowing so many different people from varying backgrounds. I wanted to share some of the stories and adventures I have had.

6 thoughts on “Dance with a Snake?

  1. There must be some gene in our family,because at 29 cents a box I might have bought all they had. However my sister Joan loves spumoni ice cream I watched her eat a lot of it on a cruise to Alaska and she loved it.

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  2. I’m holding onto the chair arms to keep from falling on the floor laughing. The Spumoni caper will go right up there in my memory next to the great home-made a/c mission.

    Liked by 1 person

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