My Childhood In Mayer
When I was little we had no indoor plumbing so in the night if you had to go to the bathroom it meant a trip in the dark to the outhouse.
I can remember making that dash in the dark with ominous inky evil just waiting to catch and eat a sweet frightened little girl.
Once Inside the outhouse sitting still so as not to draw attention to myself the granddaddy longlegs would creep up and crawl all over while I held my breath repressing a shrill scream that did not come out as sound.
Then getting up and dashing out the door and running as fast as my legs could carry me feeling the hot breathe of that terrible monster catching up and trying to overtake me.
Then I was back inside, gasping for air and pulling the cover up over your head where I was again safe.
When we wanted to bathe, we had to carry buckets of water from outside and pour it into a #2 galvanized tub heating buckets of water on top of the wood stove mixing hot with cold until it was just right.
I was older so I had to wait my turn.
The bath water was so dirty by then I know I was actually getting dirty instead of clean. I grew to abhor the feeling of being wet to this day and I am 62.
The floor was wooden and had not been kept polished and varnished so it would splinter and when I would sweep the little dried splinters would be lifted and when barefoot would pierce my dirty little feet causing bleeding which looked kind of cool that bright red against those black little appendages.
When I would wash dishes the basin was heating on the wood stove so when I reached to grab a dish and wipe it clean I would often burn myself on the hot metal. Then the dish had to go into the rinse tub! The dish would then be set to air dry or be wiped with a dish rag. Those rags were generally pieces of clothing that had worn out but could be recycled as towels.
My Mother made shirts out of the flour sacks. There were no sheets on top and bottom of beds we were poor and could not afford such luxuries. The blankets were woolen army surplus that were very rough and heavy and always had an odd odor.
When we had chicken for dinner that meant chopping the head off the bird which would flop around until it finally would stop then I had to put it into a bucket of hot water which would loosen the feathers to pluck them out more easily. I did not eat chicken for a very long time and I developed the ability to taste blood. I still check to make sure there are no pin feathers on chickens and turkeys.
I had to chop wood for the stove. Today giving a child an axe and making them chop wood would be abuse! It was a necessity for everyone to do their fair share back then. Large families were the rule because survival was an issue.
I remember playing on the rope swing that had knots tied in it so I did not easily fly off and sail down the hill on my back. It happened once and I had little rocks that would come to the surface and be rubbed out for years. Once I cut the back of my knee open swinging out over some old lumber that had nails sticking out. One cut me. Mother went to the house and came out with the butcher knife and my older sister told me she was going to cut my leg off, I was mortified. She stormed over and cut that rope swing down. There was not tetanus shot either. I guess the DPT shot was enough that we got yearly through school inoculations.
My bike was an amalgam of many old machines put together to make one functioning bicycle. I remember getting my pants leg caught in that chain. One of my friends got a new bicycle for Christmas and his Father who was the principal of our school told him to never ride “hands free” but he did not listen and ran that bike into a tree which mangled the bike and knocked his two front teeth out.
I loved to go to the junkyard and see all the bodies of stripped vehicles. I had a love for anything mechanical. I would take things apart to see what made them tick of course I could not put them back together. I would go with the repairman to watch him replace tubes and solder little circuits. Make TV’s and radios come back to life. It was a miracle!
One neighbor had a big fig tree and one summer the temperature rose so high that all the fruit ripened at the same time so he invited everyone over to eat it before it spoiled. I can still remember the taste of those hot sweet figs when I close my eyes and go back in time. I was so awed by figs because they were an inside out fruit. The fruit is on the outside, seeds on the inside.
My Father was a mineral collector so I went with him to mines dumps and old prospector houses in the middle of nowhere! When walking I would get thirsty and I would whine. My Father would tell me to put a pebble under my tongue. It would stimulate the saliva glands to produce spit. He thought that drinking water would cause a stitch in my side.
When we would go along with my Dad he would say to us before we left if you have to go pee do it now and it never failed when we got 5 minutes down the road we all had to go! He would pull over and tell us to find a bush! He was blessed with 8 daughters. It was maddening for him. I often wonder how my parents survived all those years without killing one of us or each other.
When it was stormy my Father would tell us stories about Mo, Johnny and Jenny three invisible people who would only come to see during bad weather. They would regal us with tales of their travels all over the world. Daddy told stories that would keep us hanging on his every word and at the end we would be begging “what happened then”? He would say “then I woke up!” End of story which left us wondering how that story really ended.
Times have changed. We never locked doors or worried about things. Everything was meant to be used. Entertainment meant having an active imagination. The child who learned to read in school would read to all us siblings. We had to rely on one another. We all prepared meals did the laundry using a wringer washer with tubs of water with bleach and bluing that made whites brighter! I remember my Mother making lye soap to grate and add to the washing water. Melting tallow in a tub over a fire and adding just the right chemical soup.
It was a hard way to grow up but I sometimes wish that all children had to live at least one year the way I grew up they would have a better appreciation for all the advantage they have been given.
Copyright: Marie Luetcke