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— “Can I take a look at your broom?” my son-in-law David asked Friday evening just after he, Andrea, and the boys had arrived at our house for dinner.

“The one I sweep with or the one I ride around on?” I answered, determined to beat him to the punch line if this was some kind of mother-in-law joke.

“No, really, I want to see your broom. I heard about something and I want to try it.”

Still wondering what he was up to, I took a straw broom from a nearby closet and handed it to him. With the rest of us forming a small audience, David placed the bristle end on the floor then with patience steadied the broom’s handle until it was very straight and balanced. Next, he slowly pulled back his hands. Sure enough, there in the middle of my kitchen, stood the broom, straight up, completely on its own!

“Strange ... I have never seen that before,” I marveled. “How can it happen?”

“Supposed to be some kind of unusual phenomenon … maybe having to do with the equinox or something,” explained David. “Some say it is only possible for the next couple of days because of how the Earth’s gravity is right now. At least that’s what I heard.”

We watched the broom for a while, then left it to stand alone while we ate dinner. Although we talked about other things around the table, the conversation frequently returned to the standing broom and what forces would have to be in place for this to happen. Somebody mentioned that it is getting close to Halloween.

“Or maybe the broom could have done it all along, and nobody thought to try it,” I offered.

Once our meal was over, Andrea suggested that we see what we could find out about it on the Internet. While youngest grandson Glendon tested to see if the broom would free stand in other spots around the house, Andrea and I did a Google search or two. Lo and behold, we found that there were reports of others with brooms standing upright without support. In fact, we watched a newscast about the subject from a television station in Alabama.

In the small town of Platteville, two women were preparing to open a consignment shop and while cleaning realized that their broom could stand alone. Besides drawing in reporters, the incident had caused quite a stir with town folks dropping by in droves to look through the yet-to-open shop door to get a peek at the strange sight. We found other claims backed up with YouTube video.

What we couldn’t find was a good scientific explanation of why this was occurring. Although a couple of references were made to the Earth’s unique gravitational pull during this time, all in all, there wasn’t much evidence this had much to do with it.

“This might be as hoaxy as the balloon-boy story,” Andrea commented

Soon afterwards, the “kids” went home and I went to bed, leaving the broom standing in the kitchen. I don’t know if there was a change in gravity or if the broom fell asleep, but I heard it fall down sometime during the night.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon when Earl arrived home from a weekend hunting trip.

Since he had missed the dinner and broom activity on Friday evening, I demonstrated the trick for him soon after he got home. Seconds after the broom was balanced and standing on its own, my cell phone rang. It was Megan, our youngest. “What are you doing?” she asked. I smiled at Earl and repeated her question. We both laughed.

“Standing in the kitchen watching the broom stand up all by itself,” I said, anxious to hear her response to such a silly thing.

“That’s so funny,” she stated, then proceeded to tell me that she and husband Brian had just returned from a trip to Dewitt to visit his parents. “When we walked in Mrs. Peggy’s house, her broom was standing up all by itself. She left it standing so we could see it. How do brooms do that?”

Even after multiple demonstrations, discussion, and Internet research, we haven’t figured anything out. Is it a strange gravitational phenomenon? Is it a hoax? Who knows?

One thing can be concluded for certain, and you, dear reader, have likely figured this out already … That the Rowe bunch goes for cheap, easy weekend entertainment.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 10/28/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park How do brooms do that? A phenomenon for this time of year

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