News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 8, 2012

RONN MOTT: All charged up for the season


---- — In the last century, the 20th, archaeologists in Baghdad found a clay pot that was angular and tall, and had a metal rod in it. Or perhaps the metal rod was found nearby. It was put aside and almost totally forgotten.

Then, someone found it and thought it looked like an ancient battery. Oh no, they thought, what could someone a thousand years before Christ do with a battery? Well, first, let’s see if it is a battery.

So they stuck the metal rod in it and plugged up the top after they filled it with fruit juice, the kind that makes its own acid. They attached the proper wires to the metal rod and they got a charge. As far as we know, there were no light bulbs to attach to this battery, so what was it used for?

Well, it is hypothesized that it was used to plate non-rare metals with gold. Take lead for example. If you could charge the electricity and gold in some liquid, it would adhere to the lead. And that piece of lead would then become a piece of gold. Whoever knew this did not share the information because it did not sweep the world with the availability of taking worthless metal and making it gold (actually, gold-plated). You have to wonder if this is true and how many people in the past were tricked with this metal-plating capacity of this ancient battery.  

I have lived long enough that the earliest parts of my life were lived without much assistance from batteries. I knew my father’s car had a battery and I knew there were two or three inside the big flashlight we kept in our house. But that was about it. I’m sure there were many other batteries but I didn’t know about them.

Now, we are surrounded, overwhelmed even, by batteries. My cell phone has one. The computer has one. The little computer the wife uses has one. And the 15 candles that will light up our windows for the holidays have two batteries each. Oh, before I forget, both electric razors in a drawer in the bathroom, that almost never get used, have batteries.  

I’m not complaining, though it may read like that. I just thought how life makes those little changes that takes money out of your pocket and does things for you that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. Maybe the song should go, “Deck the halls with lots of batteries, la la la la, la la la la.” And maybe it doesn’t have that Christmas spirit, but it has taken on a Christmas necessity.  

So, may your Christmas be bright and cheery, may all the lights that the batteries need to light keep twinkling, and may all your batteries be fully charged this holiday season.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.