Play: Doh!


Finally, some time with Abby outdoors–not much outdoors, only out in the back yard fenced off from the narrow, overgrown canyon that separates the houses on Abby’s street from the next one. We’d seen the pair of bucks out in the tall weeds that morning, the only wildlife Ann and I were likely to see on this narrowly focused domestic service trip to South Dakota.

Abby and I picked some unknown wildflowers through the metal bars of the fence and were talking “birds and bees” when Maggie the cat began pouncing then retreating out beyond the bars, stalking something. Abby went over to investigate.

“It’s a snake!” she shouted, though I doubted it. Even so, I went over to check it out. She was right. And the stupid cat was intent on pressing the full measure of her nine lives: challenging a three foot rattlesnake. She would not relent.

In the end, we finally found a rock (that’s how sterile the yard is) to throw at the CAT–the only way we could get her attention on the other side of the fence. Maggie lives. So does the snake. We went inside and created an imaginary outside using the barnyard animal figures we’d purchased for Abby at the Horse and Saddle store that morning. She needed something to hold up her minature “trees” made from snips of house plantings.

“Do you have any clay?” I wondered. Nope. How about Play Dough? Nope. Hold on–here’s  a recipe. Worked great. I’ll pass it on. It might just save the day when it’s too hot to play outdoors. Or there are snakes.  Link for more recipes.


Traditional Play Dough

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring

Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled. Will last for a long time.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Glad to hear that Mags is still around — that would’ve been a heartbreaker.

    In other news, I seem to remember that you once enjoyed a play-dough “cookie” with Abby’s ma?