Load ’em Up, Head ’em Out

Every summer, when I was a little girl, Dad took two weeks of vacation. One week was for getting ready to go, and one week was for the actual vacation. He always took us camping. Dad learned how to camp in the army, but he learned how much fun it could be from Mom. Mom camped when she was a little girl, and that’s before there were even campgrounds.

First off, we had to bake cookies for the trip. Mom had a big lard-tin that had to get filled up with home-baked cookies. Deanna baked Cherry Winks, yucky, I hated those: marachino cherries and corn flakes, I hated both of those things. Corn flakes ’cause of the six thousand boxes we ate saving Post Toasties box tops for all those free cereal bowls and juice glasses, and marachino cherries were so sweet they made my teeth hurt. Vickie made no bake chocolate cookies, that’s the first thing I learned how to make in 4-H Cooking; except for learning how to make a root beer float, but that doesn’t count, that’s just scooping and pouring, any do-do bird can do that. Bonita made peanut butter cookies, yummy, those were best still warm with a glass of good, cold milk. I liked to hold a bite of cookie in my mouth and let the milk soak in. That’s almost the same as dunking, but no crumbs in the milk glass. Mom hated dunking, it was against the rules. I made chocolate chip cookies, my very favorite kind, and the kind I got my first blue ribbon for in my first year of 4-H. Each of us Big Kids made about 10 dozen cookies. I had to eat some right out of the oven, ’cause that caramel-good smell with melting chocolate made my mouth get slippery inside and it seemed like those cookies just begged to be eaten. That left a big greasy stain on the newspaper, so I put new cookies on those stains, so Mom wouldn’t know I snitched cookies.

That was just about enough for one week of camping, ’cause some days we got ice cream instead of cookies.’ Making cookies took a long time, ’cause I could only bake one sheet at a time, and each sheet took exactly 12 minutes. Let’s see, that’s 12X10 or 120 minutes. Okay that was only 2 hours of baking, but then there was the mixing and washing the dishes, and finally packing into the tin, with a perfect circle of waxed paper between every layer of cookies. Holy smokes, that was a project. Twelve minutes was too long to just sit around staring at the oven, so I liked to read in between. The only trouble was, if I got lost in my book and forgot to set the timer, pretty soon somebody was yelling, “The cookies are burning,” which was usually Mom, ’cause nobody else paid attention to smoke like Mom did. Grandpa was a fireman, so she knew all about fires and she was scared to death of our house burning. She was always saying, “Are you trying to burn the house down?” That was another one of those questions I wasn’t supposed to answer. Once I wondered what she would say if
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Baby Frankfurter

Mom was always expecting some baby or another, when I was a little girl.  My friend Diann said that her mom said she knew it was spring, ’cause my mom was having another baby.  Deanna rolled her eyes and turned all red when I told her, but I liked it.  I was going to have eleven children, when I grew up, then I would have lots of help, just like Mom did.

Mom and Dad had a heck of a time picking out names for kids.  Deanna never did get officially named until she was sixteen.  She found out about that when she got her birth certificate for her driving permit.  Boy oh boy, was she mad, when she read “baby girl” on the line where the first name belonged.

“I guess I can pick out any name I want,” she said, with one hand on her hip and that birth certificate wagging in the other and her hair all up in curlers so she could get it ratted up high like the girls on American Bandstand.  Continue reading

Weaseling out of Weed Work

I loved planting the garden, and eating fresh vegetables straight from the garden, but my how I hated weeding the garden, when I was a little girl.

Dad planted such a big, big garden, and each row was so long,  I thought it was near impossible to get the whole thing weeded.  Those weeds were super strong growers, too; a weed could get twice as big as a bean or tomato plant just about overnight.

Dad told me and Deanna that he would pay us for weeding;  25¢ for a small pile of weeds, $1 for a great big pile.  He gave us each a hoe, and left us to our work.  Like I said before, Dad was a genius at getting kids to work hard. Once on a rainy day when we were camping,  he got me to swat flies all day long with the promise of a penny for each fly I got, but I had to bring him every fly to prove I killed it, which was really tough, ’cause the bodies fell in the sand and six other kids were scuffling around killing flies, so after all that work, I just made a dime.  Deanna and I went right to work on those weeds ’cause looking at those weeds as high as our knees, some even bigger, and weeds covering the whole darned garden, we were both sure $1 was gonna be in our pockets in no time.

Deanna gave up on the hoe, and just started pulling; I kept hacking away with the hoe.   Anyway, I liked the hoe better  ’cause I could pretend it was a machete and I was cutting through the jungle, looking for Tarzan, which was pretty easy ’cause of how hot it was out there; besides, pulling at the weeds, gave me blisters and slivers and weed juice made my skin itch down to the bones,  and then the back of my throat itched, and  my eyes itched so bad I wanted to pull them out and scratch behind them.  Mom and Dad were the experts at thinking up jobs, but I was about as good as anyone at making up a story to go with a job:  like when I did dishes, I pretended the silverware was my army and I got everyone lined up to battle with the enemy, the pots and pans.

Before long, Deanna had a great big pile of weeds, almost as tall as me, and  my weeds looked like a small forest chopped down left and right.  Deanna was way smarter than me, ’cause she piled up all her weeds, nice and neat, as she pulled them out of the ground.    My weeds were all chopped off with stubs still in the ground and on top of that, I chopped down some of the bean plants, too.  Dad was gonna be giving me his ‘harumph’ and looking through his eyebrows at me about that, so I quick dug a little trench and buried the bean stems in some of the dirt I dug up along with the weeds.  Then I started scraping all the weeds up with the hoe, which turned out to be a pretty lucky trick, ’cause I noticed all that dirt helped make a gigantic pile.  That gave me another idea, and since Deanna already high-tailed it to the house, dusting off her hands at me like she was so much smarter than me, which she was, but she didn’t have to know it so loud, I was confident my plan was going to work.  I scraped up a pile of dirt the size Dad said would get me $1, and put a bunch of chopped down weeds on top.  Doing that gave me three big piles, $3.  Deanna only had one.   So there.

By the time Dad got out there to check our piles, all the weeds wilted and shrunk down to nothing.  Deanna’s pile was about 1/3 of what it was the day she pulled all those weeds up, and my pile looked like just a pile of dirt with a few wilty leaves on top.  Besides that, the nubs of the weeds I left were sprouting up almost like I never attacked them, and the bean plants I buried were laying down on their sides like a bunch of tattle-tales.

“What happened here?” Dad said, bending over and stroking the bean leaves the same way I saw him stroke baby Julie’s hair when she was sleeping.

“I don’t know,”  I said, and I wished I could lie as good as Bonita, ’cause she could convince herself she was telling the truth.  I was no good at lying, so I had to look down at the ground, and pretend like I was studying the dirt all around the beans.  Then I pulled a Kleenex out of my pocket and snorted good into it, ’cause all that weed juice and dirt was making my nose start to itch.

Dad just pulled at his chin, cleared his throat way louder than he needed to,  and spit on the ground; then he did his harumphing like he always did when he had something to say, but decided not to say it.  Instead, he pulled $1 out of his pocket and gave it to Deanna, and walked back up to the house.   I could argue both sides of just about any argument, but I just felt ashamed ’cause my trick was the same thing as cheating, and then I lied on top of it all.   That was no way to be.

Gardening Companions

Sometimes the best way to get a job done, is just dig right in and do it; all the planning and conniving to get away from the work, just creates more work and makes the process  that much more dreadful.  Of course when it comes to gardening, I make sure I plant short rows, so I can get some sense of victory right away and I learned that it’s better to keep at it while the weeds are small, then it’s not so hard to tell what I want to keep, and what needs to be tossed.  Most of all,  working with someone, shoulder to shoulder, can make the job more fun than I ever imagined, even when my partner is a smarter than me.