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Old Minds Wander

John W. Pinkerton


Old minds wander and dart into strange corners: the other day my painting trousers captured my old mind.  The trousers had six pockets, two more than I’m used to. 

I long ago quit purchasing my own trousers.  Linda buys all of my clothes now.  All I want to know about them is, “How much did they cost?”

I think this is the first pair of trousers with the additional pockets that I’ve ever worn.  For a couple of years, I ignored the extra pockets.  They were, well,…extra.  Then one day it occurred to me that the long shape of the extra pockets, which are stitched to the outside of the pants over my thighs, might be a good place for my glasses, at least the small glasses I use when I’m painting. 

By that time it was too late…my old mind became obsessed with pockets.  I began to wonder who was the first fellow to come up with the idea of pockets.  Did he receive praise for his invention?  Oh, well, I guess I’ll never know the answer to that one, just as I’ll never know who the first guy was who decided to milk a cow, but I did discover some interesting things about pockets.

In the Western World, pockets began as pouches attached to belts.  Often they were concealed beneath a coat and was accessible through a slit.  I guess that’s normal.  Cars began as wagons with gasoline or steam engines.  You got to start some place I guess.

By the Middle Ages, the Old French poke, pouque, had become pocketPoke is still used as in “a pig in a poke,” to buy something unseen…because it’s in a poke or pocket.

From the 17th to the 19th Centuries, pocket was also used to refer to a pouch worn around the waist of women.

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,

Kitty Fisher found it;

Not a penny was there in it,

Only ribbon round it.

Have you ever noticed that inside of men’s dress trousers, there is often a smaller pocket; it was originally included to hold a pocketwatch.  Few men carry pocketwatches today, but trousers continue to be made with this “handy” feature.  Jeans have a similar pocket just above the regular pocket.  It too, in the beginning, was designed  for a pocketwatch.

It’s interesting how almost everything eventually gets used as a political statement. During the Depression, men sometimes turned their inside pockets out to indicate that they had nothing.  They were called Hoover flags.

I looked on the internet to see if I could find some interesting quotes about pockets.  The best I could come up with were the following:

         You've got to think lucky. If you fall into a mudhole, check your

        back pocket---you might have caught a fish.

                                Darrell Royal

        Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about

        the things in my pocket. But I found it would be too long;

        and the age of the great epics is past.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Speaking of poems, I looked around the net to see what I could find in the way of poems about pockets.  It appears that it’s not a popular subject for bards.  Most were written for children.


I think of all the things I have,

I like my pockets best.Pockets hold just everything

and they give your hands a rest.

I never know just what I'll find,

what special things I'll see

to put inside my pockets ---

these are treasures, just for me.

When Mommy's doing laundry though,

she says sometimes it's scary

finding rocks and frogs and beetles

and my spiders that are hairy.

                                C. J. Heck

One children’s poem I found ends with, “What’s in your pockets?”  Good question.  Not a billfold.  I gave those up years ago.  I now carry what would normally be in a wallet—driver’s license, credit card, social security card, etc.—loosely in my right rear hip pocket.  In my left rear hip pocket, I carry a handkerchief.  Handkerchiefs have a rough life if they belong to me.  I seldom use them to blow my nose or wipe my brow; they’re more likely to be used to clean grease off of something, or mop up a spill, or wipe paint from my hands, things a normal person would use a paper towel to clean up. 

I guess inspecting a man’s trouser pockets would tell us a lot about him.  I use my front pockets as ashtrays; I flick the fire off the end of my cigarettes and place the extinguished butt in my pockets.  I get a lot of flack from
Linda about this on wash days, but, at least, I don’t litter.  As for my folding money…well, in my case it’s wadded money crumpled up in my front pockets.  This causes me a little extra time when I want a drink from a Coke machine—a good ten seconds to straighten the bills out so the machine won’t spit it back at me.  In my work/paint/relax trousers, you may find pencils, pens, tape measures, brushes, and odd tools I’m afraid I’ll forget where I place them if I don’t put them in my pocket for safe keeping.  Oh yeah, lots of receipts.  I used to simply refuse receipts or immediately throw them away.  Now, because I’ve become a “professional” artist, I have to save most of these so that I can deduct the cost from our income tax.  I wad them up, place them in one of my front pockets and when the number of receipts become troublesome, I place them in a bowl in the bedroom where Linda retrieves them for our tax records.  Nickles, pennies, dimes, and quarters don’t last long in my pockets.  I quickly remove them and place them in the aforementioned bowl.

Well, I guess this old mind can rest now from laboring over pockets.  I’m sure there is more to know about pockets, but I’ve learned enough to satisfy me for a while.