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Professor Bumbly's Gold Bug

Professor Bumbly's class was out on a field trip. They were down at a pond collecting samples for water pollution tests.

Splash! Professor Bumbly had leaned over too far. He fell right into the slimy water. His assistant, Oscar, and some of the students hurried to pull him out.

"I guess we'd better get back to the lab right away, Professor," said Oscar, "so that you can change into some clean clothes."

Oscar hung Professor Bumbly's wet clothes up in the corner of the lab. The next morning they were still damp. Professor Bumbly looked closer. His clothes had a strange golden glow. His wet shoes, standing in the corner, were also covered with a golden coating.

"Hmmm," thought Professor Bumbly, "it's a mold with a golden color. I think I'll have Oscar test it while I give my lectures."

Later that morning, when Professor Bumbly returned to the lab, Oscar shouted, "Professor, it's gold! We've got gold!"

"Ah," said the professor, examining a slide. "It looks as though this mold collects gold. This could be something big, Oscar. There's gold in sea water, the soil -- just about everything. This mold could solve our country's money problems."

Oscar and Professor Bumbly scraped off bits of the mold from the damp clothes and put them into a special tank. That afternoon the professor had his students dig up soil from the campus lawn to feed the growing mold. By the next morning the mold was growing nicely.

Professor Bumbly had already collected several ounces of almost pure gold from his tank. He called the supply house for an emergency order of a hundred more tanks.

Soon Professor Bumbly's laboratory was filled with tanks. He also set up tanks with the mold in a math classroom, an English classroom, and a French classroom.

Professor Bumbly was back in his lab, fishing gold nuggets out of a tank with a long-handed strainer, when the telephone rang. It was the president of the College.

"Bumbly," he thundered, "What's going on? There are holes all over the campus. And three professors have called me to complain that you're filling their classrooms with tanks full of slimy stuff. Get rid of them immediately!"

"Oh, no!" the professor exclaimed. "This could be a great thing for our country -- and the College. I'll come over to your office and show you."

A few minutes later, Professor Bumbly poured a handful of gold nuggets out onto the top of the president's desk. "Is that stuff real?" the president asked. Professor Bumbly nodded, beaming.

"Just think of it!" the president exclaimed. "Our own supply of gold -- limitless! What we could buy for the College! Bumbly, you're a genius!"

During the weeks that followed, the campus buzzed with excitement. Tanks of mold were set up in all the rooms of the College, even in the president's office. Guards watched the tanks 24 hours a day. Soon there was not a square inch of dirt left on the campus lawns. More dirt had to be ordered by the truckload to feed the growing mold. The president had plans drawn up for a new library building, to be made of gleaming steel. The foundation was laid, and the framework began to rise.

Then one morning, as the president was scooping the day's yield of gold out of one of the tanks in his office, he suddenly stopped and stared. Then he grabbed the telephone. "Bumbly," he roared, "what happened to the gold? It's not gold anymore!"

Professor Bumbly checked his tank. His new crop of gold wasn't gold either. It was a sort of shiny gray. "Oscar," he called, holding out a sample. "Check this out right away."

By noon the bad news was in. All the molds in all the tanks weren't collecting gold any more. "It must have been that last load of dirt," Professor Bumbly explained to the president. "It must have changed the mold somehow."

"Oh, no!" the president groaned. "I've spent every cent so far on the new building, and it isn't even half finished."

"Professor," Oscar burst in, "here are the results."

"Well," Professor Bumbly beamed as he read the slip of paper. "We can finish the library building."

"It's gold after all?" the president gasped.

"No," said the professor, "steel."



©1972, 2013 The Silversteins