By Otis Griffin
Since Blue Monday was always wash day, Tuesday was ironin’ day. A funny set up. Sometimes Momma might start trying to iron late Monday afternoon, but gen’ly she would get a good start early Tuesday morning.
After the clothes dried all day Monday, Momma would tell me, “go gather the clothes.” This meant get them off the clothesline. You know, you gather clothes like you gather the vegetables out of the garden. I’d have to fight the dogs, as they wanted to drag some pants to the road. The cats had to observe the work and the chickens were always scratching under yo’ feet.
Neighbor, the clothesline usually consisted of sash cord we used to hold the weights on the side of the tall windows when you raised and lowered them, so the glass wouldn’t break if the windows fell down. The clotheslines ran from the big pecan tree to the corner posts of the garden. It ‘ain’t gonna’ fall down.
I was so small initially I used a half-bushel basket to gather clothes. I was reminded to wipe out the basket real well as often it was additionally used in the garden to tote vegetables, and Momma didn’t want any dirt on the smelly, clean clothes. We gen’ly kept a bushel basket and a washtub on the back porch for toting clothes and vegetables.
Friends, do memories bring back yo’ wobbly steps? Our first back porch step, when I was real little, Daddy cut off a smooth log that lasted for a while. But when it rained or if you didn’t hit it just right you might stumble into the well right outside the back door. Later, we got some concrete blocks for a modern stable step.
I had to bring all the clothes on the back porch while Momma set up the ironing board and heated the irons. Emphatically you are reminded not to mix the whites and colored. I also stood on a metal five-gallon bucket to even reach the clothesline. The fun began.
We had a little cloth bag to store all the clothespins in that hung on the line with a piece of baling wire so you could slide it up and down the line. Just pinch the pins, drag the clothes off the line, and drop them in a tub or basket.
Now the trick was to get one foot up on the step, hold the door open, balance a over flowing basket full of clothes, and make it to the back porch without falling down or getting ruptured. One lesson is; don’t pull the screen door open real hard, or the spring will fly off and belt you upside the head. That hurts worse than a mad, snorting Black Angus bull running over you.
When Momma first started ironing, she used a coalscuttle to heat three irons.
Then she started using her wood cook stove by layin’ the irons on top ’til they got just right! See country folks are smart. Those cast irons were heavy enough to chunk through the smokehouse door. She’d also cook while heatin’ irons on the stove.
The clothes were sprinkled with water so the iron won’t stick. Brilliant and simple.
We always kept a water bucket on the back porch table so all I had to do was take off the rag covering the drinking water, skim the bugs, and get a dipper full of water in a soup bowl. Dip your fingers in the bowl and sprinkle lightly. Not too much, just right!
Momma would scold me if I used too much water hoping to finish too soon. She said, “you can’t hurry nature.”
Don’t forget after sprinkling, the clothes were twisted, wrapped in a towel, and set for a few minutes, so they will be ‘just right’. Some memories from the past of our Southern hard workin’ heritage.…GLORY!