Dishing A Little Dirt
Even though I’m only in my early 40's, I can still remember living on a farm and all the mishaps that can occur to young children. Responsibility can come hard to the eldest child in the family, as you will soon read for yourself.
There were four kids in my family. I just happened to come first in the family ranking. I usually enjoyed being the oldest child, but there were times when my younger siblings made me wish that I wasn’t.
My parents often left me alone to babysit, while they visited the next door neighbors, or went to the grocery. Now my younger brothers and sister were a handful. Generally, I played the strict disciplinarian. I lorded my "authority" over them every chance I could. They soon learned how to pay me back.
One day my mother went next door to the landlord’s house (within sight of our house) and she told me to watch my baby sister. And a baby she was, not quite a year old, but old enough to walk. We had planned a trip later in the day, and she didn’t want her to "get dirty" and have to clean her up again. The story goes downhill from here.
It had recently rained, and since there wasn’t much to do outside I picked up a book. I loved to read more than I loved to eat. I soon became immersed in the book, and forgot all about my little sister I was supposed to have been keeping out of mischief. When I realized that I had really made a major mistake by not keeping my eye on her, I ran around like a crazy person trying to find her.
There were all kinds of pitfalls on the farm. There was a pond, a well house, we actually lived on top of the mountain, and woods all around. We had cows and horses in the field, and probably a few coyotes, and who knows what other find of ferocious animal that was hidden out of sight. I panicked. I began yelling her name hoping she would answer.
I dreaded facing my mother, telling her I had lost my little sister. I ran all around the house looking for her. We had those rain barrels at each corner of the house under the gutters, and I frantically looked in each one. No baby sister. I looked in the well house, which was a danger in and of itself. A hole was dug for the water pipes and sump pump and electric wires were in there. When I peeked in the hole was still covered and nothing was disturbed. No baby sister.
I looked in the barn, the outbuildings where my Dad made homebrew. I could just picture my little sister getting into the homebrew bottles, and dropping one cutting herself. The popping of the bottles as they "worked" were an everyday occurrence and we were used to it. Sometimes at night we’d hear a pop, and we’d giggle as kids because we knew that Dad had lost another one.
I peeked inside afraid a bottle would pop in my face. No baby sister.
Starting to sweat with fear, I finally started out to the gravel pile at the end of the drive. It was our favorite play place. My brothers and I would "build" entire cities in that gravel pile, playing with their matchbox cars, imagining our own little town. It would occupy us for hours. I thought maybe she might have wandered out there to play. I imagined that she had gotten a gravel stuck in her throat and couldn't call for help. I thought about her funeral and my Mom and Dad looking at me with a look that bespoke guilt on my part. It’s amazing the horrors that can go through a child’s mind in a flash.
On my way out the drive, I spotted her. She was playing happily in a mud puddle, soaked to the skin, her little yellow dress no longer yellow. She was swishing something in and out of the mud puddle. I took a closer look and it was her panties! She had such a huge smile on her face when she saw me, I guessed she really didn't like wearing her panties after all. When I saw her sitting there pretty as you please, all I could do was get mad and think of all of the trouble she had put me through. The nerve of her actually wandering off like that and getting dirty and wet to boot! I promptly forgot how worried I was about her getting into trouble, falling into the rain barrels, into the pond or down the well shaft. Her smile kinda faded a little when she saw my face. Her panties just stopped flapping in the mud puddle. They sank to the bottom of the puddle and rested there. She looked at me and grinned again.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother approaching the house from the landlord’s house.
I knew I was in for it. My baby sister just looked up at me and smiled. I think she contrived it, just to get me in trouble. And trouble I got. I think I had to do the dishes for a whole month without any help. I was standing on a chair anyway to do them, but she cooed happily in her high chair, scooping mashed potatoes into her little mouth with her thumb. She would look at me while I was washing those dishes and grin. She still gives me that grin today. A mischievous, devilish grin it is. Just like she’s saying "haha, I got you in trouble" kind of grin.
I lived through that disaster.
Now my brothers were an entirely different story. We had to walk about half a mile to catch the school bus. We didn’t follow the road. We took a shortcut through the woods. Usually it was still dark when we headed down the mountain. Come rain or shine, we had that long walk through the woods.
Some of the time we would slip and fall, getting muddy and wet and still have to trod along to the bus stop. In the wintertime it was especially nasty. Arriving at the bus stop cold and wet, freezing actually, and the bus would never come. School had been cancelled and we had left too early to know about it.
Sometimes the bus would be early and we’d miss it. Or the bus would be late, and we’d think school had been called off. We’d start the climb back up the mountain, and then the bus would come around the curve. Sprinting, slipping sliding, we’d barely make it back to the bus stop in time. We had brown paper bags to hold our lunch, and often we’d lose them on our way up or down, depending on the weather. When we’d get to school, we’d take off our shoes and socks and let them dry out on the radiator. Life sure was full of adventure.
One day, after several days of rain, we decided we’d take the road up the mountain instead of cutting through the woods. My brothers were all over that road, stepping in every mud puddle they could find. After all, the day was over and they could let loose a little. My younger brother was in the first grade and he was a little more adventuresome than most. He would run from one side of the road to the other, running at me as if he were going to knock me into the mud. I would squeal and threaten to "tell" if he didn’t quit. During one of these kamikaze runs he ran off into the ditch line. He looked at me with horror on his face because he had sunk knee deep in the mud. I started laughing at him, of course, as an older sister would. He pleaded with me to pull him out, and I started over to help him. I called for my other brother, who was several yards ahead of us, to come back and help. I was secretly afraid I was gonna get in trouble for this little antic of his, and wanted to try to save my self from another month of dishes. My brother ran back to us and we each took an arm and pulled. Nothing happened. He didn’t budge an inch.
We pulled again. Nothing happened. Again we pulled with all of our strength, and he was crying by that time, because we must have been hurting his arms. He was stuck, and that was that.
Now what were we going to do? We couldn’t go off and leave him like that. After all, someone might come by and kidnap him. We put our heads together and I stayed with him, and sent my brother on home to get Mom. My brother was crying, afraid that he was gonna be in the ditch forever. I really didn’t know how we were gonna get him out.
After what seemed like forever, my brother and Mom came down the road. We all pulled and pulled and I remember a distinct noise as we pulled him free. The yellow clay mud was almost like super glue. It held fast, and didn’t let go easily. When he was finally free, we all looked down at his feet. The mud kept his shoes! I think my Mom went fishing in that ditch line for his
shoes, and finally found them, but they were never the same.
My brother now builds asphalt roads, and never, never gets in the ditch line. What adventures we had as children. Children today don’t like to get dirty, but it seems as if we didn’t have a choice back then. The dirt found us. Or at least that’s what we always told Mom.