The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 2, 2012

Perfect mate cool in face of ‘disaster’


Laurie and I were married 30 years ago this week. On Thanksgiving morning, I reminded myself — once again — that she is just the girl for me.

Let me explain. Everyone has always come to our house for Thanksgiving. This year, that was 14 people, spanning four generations. Laurie went to the store and got everything we needed: turkey, potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, and all the things that go into the desserts.

At 4 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning, we both got up, boiled the giblets, neck and liver, chopped them up, diced the celery and onions, and made the dressing. I stuffed the bird, and we put him in the oven.

Then it happened. Laurie opened drawer after drawer, looking for the turkey baster. She knew right where it was, and it wasn’t there.

“Huh!” she said, fumbling around. “Where in the world could it be?”

“Hmmm,” I said, fumbling some more. “That’s weird. Where could it have gone?”

Just as I said “gone,” it hit me. It was not only gone, it was really gone, forever gone, never-to-be-seen-again gone.

“Oh man,” I said as her head slowly turned my way. “Remember, about six months ago, when the black car needed some power steering fluid?”

She just stood there as I explained that somehow, someway, I had grabbed the bottle of brake fluid, and filled the power steering reservoir with it. I knew that if I started the car, I would probably ruin something, so I had to get the brake fluid out, then refill it with power steering fluid. I tried siphoning it with an old plastic drinking straw from McDonald’s, but that didn’t work at all.

What I really needed was one of those automotive rubber suction balls that they used to sell at Lehmann Brothers’ Ace Hardware when I was a stockboy there. But I didn’t know if they still made them, and besides, I didn’t have a car that I could drive to go looking for one.

Which brings me to the turkey baster.

Laurie’s turkey baster, I thought, might just provide enough suction to suck the brake fluid out. So I ran into the house and found it the drawer that holds the spatulas, big forks, ice cream scoop and potato masher. I pressed the tip against my finger and gave the ball a squeeze. The suction was weak, so I wrapped a piece of stove pipe wire around the bottom of the ball and twisted it tight with a pair of pliers. That seemed to help.

Relieved, I rushed out to the car, stuck the tube into the power steering reservoir, and gave the ball another squeeze. Nothing much happened. All that Yankee ingenuity was wasted.

The baster, of course, was ruined, and I still had brake fluid where power steering fluid was supposed to go. As I was making my way to the garbage can to throw the baster away, it hit me — five or six years ago, I bought an automotive suction pump to remove the tar-like, 75-year-old gunk in the differential of my 1930 Chevy truck. Within minutes, I pumped it clean and filled it with nice, clean, fresh gear lube.

Inspired, I went to the garage, found the suction pump, sucked the brake fluid from the Toyota, and poured in the power steering fluid. Disater averted.

Six months ago, I planned to buy a new yellow plastic turkey baster, just like the old one. Laurie would never know the diff.

But I forgot. Completely, absolutely forgot until Thanksgiving morning, when it was time to get ready to baste the turkey.

Confession is good for the soul, they say, so I ‘fessed up.

“That’s OK,” Laurie said. “We can just use a ladle instead.”

The plastic ladle worked fine all morning, until I accidentally shoved it against a boiling pot, melted it, and filled the kitchen with stinky smoke.

Laurie looked at her ivory-colored ladle, now black and misshapen, and tossed it into the trash can.

“Oh, man ... I didn’t know I did that,” I said.

“That’s OK,” Laurie said. “Let’s get the turkey out, and put the rolls in the oven.”

As I said ... she’s just the girl for me. Always has been. Always will be.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at