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A Substitute Teacher’s Surprise
(Tucson, AZ, sometime in the 1980’s)
She asked me if I had liked working as a substitute teacher.  Umm, I thought, I could tell her a couple of shocking stories—then I thought, I’d tell her one of my favorite stories from those days:
The second grader came in from recess shaking a school milk carton that was empty except for some things that rattled in a wispy sort of way.  He was next to my desk.  Curiously I asked him “what’s in your milk carton.”
He replied with an innocent grin “sand rubies.”
My imagination sparked like from some fairy tale of old.  Such intriguing words “sand rubies.”  I’d never heard of such things.
“Sand rubies, what are sand rubies?” I inquired with even more curiosity than before.
He opened the carton to give me a peek.   There were more than a dozen quite small opaque crystals the color of some dark wine.
“Where did you get them?” came my next query.  “We find them in the sand in the sandbox on our playground.
It was time to get back to school work.  Next recess the children led me to where they found the sand rubies.  I sat with them as we carefully sorted through the sand.  Oh yes! We did find some.  I still have mine in a corked little glass vial.  Once, while I was examining them with the light of a flashlight and a magnifying glass, one of them glowed a bright transparent red.
It turns out these tiny gemstones are bits of garnet that washed down from the mountains and foothills to mix with the sand in the desert wash that provided the sand for the sandbox.
The magical view through the eyes of children of these little treasures still makes me smile.

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