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Glistening Balls of Mud
by sandy feet

For years now the Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards have been helping others havesandball more fun on the beach by showing them how to create "South Texas Snowballs" - solid spheres of SPI sand and water - as part of our regular sand castle lesson.

It's a simple enough procedure:

1. scoop up a handful of really wet sand
2. place a handful of drier sand on top
3. top with another handful of really wet sand - so you have a "sand sandwich"
4. toss back and forth between your hands until you have a big wet blob
5. polish with very dry sand while continuing to form into a sphere until solid and smooth

I learned how to make these from Amazin' Walter. It is not always easy getting Amazin' to reveal his sources (he likes everyone to think he's known all his amazing tricks from birth) but he once admitted to me that he learned how to make them from "some Japanese guys I saw on a beach somewhere."

Then a few days ago, alert reader Greg P. of Ennis, TX sent me a link to an interesting article about "hikuru dorodango" or "balls of mud that shine." The article tells of Japanese Education professor Furnio Kayo's discovery of children making these at a nursery school and his interest in the procedure as a means of studying children's play.

"Once (children learn) how to make these mud balls, they become absorbed in forming a sphere, and they put all their energy into polishing the ball until it sparkles. The dorodango soon becomes the child's greatest treasure. Kayo sees in this phenomenon the essence of children's play, and he has written academic papers on the subject. The mud balls could also offer fresh insights into how play aids children's growth."

After many failed experiments, Professor Kayo devised a set of instructions for creating these glistening balls that reads much like the description above, with the addition of the following (very important) steps:

6.Rub your hands against the ground, patting and rubbing the fine, powdery dirt onto the sphere. Continue this for two hours.
7.Seal the ball in a plastic bag for three or four hours. Upon removing the sphere, repeat step 6, and then once again seal the sphere in a plastic bag.
8.Remove the ball from the bag, and if it is no longer wet, polish it with a cloth until it shines.

The web article included a photo of one of these mudballs, and by golly it does indeed shine.

I want one!
But -- four hours of polishing.....???!!!
Not this summer.

The Challenge

The first person who makes a shiny ball from genuine South Padre Island mud wins a free sand castle lesson ($75.00 value!) from me. A mere photo of this mudball will not suffice, however; I want to see it up close and personal, and I will travel the length and breadth of the island to do so. Should your efforts prove successful, you can call me at 761-6222 or e-mail feet@unlitter.com.

To read the article referenced in this column, please visit http://www.jinjapan.org/trends/article/011005sci_r.html

See you on the beach!

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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