New Horizons Writers Group – October 2014

Laundry Day

Bob Hirt

Laundry day came at least once a week for my poor hassled mother. But she tackled that chore with a vengeance, never stopping the sorting, pre-scrubbing and finally teasing the heavy clothes through the wringer. We wore overalls back then, now referred to as jeans. But no matter what they were called they always smelled dirty, covered with cow barn “stuff” and usually with wet cuffs and often with torn-out knees. I really hated those days, mostly because you couldn’t walk through the kitchen without stumbling over a pile of dirty clothes. And it feels as though that wringer washer indeed claimed its right to be right there in the middle of the floor churning away dutifully and seeming to say brashly “Today is my day, so clear out and let me do my job!” On hot summer days she’d do the wash on the back porch where it was cooler. Mama always used Fab. That was the only thing I really tolerated in my brain, the pleasant smell of that detergent. But the sight of that wringer turning scared me a little too, mostly because I was afraid my mother would someday get a hand caught or be pulled into it unmercifully with nobody there to help free her. I could just imagine her all flattened out lying on the floor.

One year our cousin, Georgie, came up from the city to be with us kids for a week. He was a big windbag type of guy, always bragging about everything he knew that we kids, ages eight, 10 and 11 should know about. He brought his Savage .22 rifle along to show us how to shoot. WE knew how to shoot but we never let on because we wanted to show him up a bit. After all, we were dumb country hicks that had to be taught everything!

Then the time came to hang out the wash on my grandma’s line at the back of the house next to the grapevine. She shared the wash line with my mother. When my mother and grandma went back into the house he said, “Here’s a good place to practice shooting. After we’re done here you can go out and kill a woodchuck or skunk with a single shot.” Wow, we could be that good? So Georgie hung a tin can on the wash line, dangling it down about 12 inches to make it more of a moving target. We boys would take turns, first Tommy, then Al and finally me. But, of course first he had to give us a demonstration how it should be done. He took no fewer than six shots; he looked like a real pro with that familiar swagger and cocky manner. “Wow,” we thought, “this guy’s really GOOD;” that is until we ran down to see the damage to the tin can; we laughed out loud and mocked him out. There was only a single hole in the can. Tommy and Al got their chances too but were able to put only one more hole in the tin can. Now came my turn. “You’re not big enough to shoot that thing so maybe you should wait ‘til next year,” he said sarcastically. But he wasn’t holding the gun. Al gave it to me and whispered “Show that a-hole a thing or two!” I’d never shot a .22 before so it was a new toy for me. “Be careful, it’s got a kick to it; hold it tight to your shoulder.” That done, I took careful aim and pulled the trigger very carefully. All the shirts and overalls instantly fell to the ground. I had shot the main wash line in half and in the pile of rubble on the ground was the tin can. “Grandma will kill me,” I muttered! With just one bullet I had became a genuine marksman! “What’s the matter with you,” said Georgie, “you’re supposed to aim at the tin can.” We laughed and gloated for a half hour and Georgie had gotten his comeuppance. Of course, we three boys all knew that when “push came to shove” I hardly knew which end of the gun did the damage. Georgie never offered to teach us anything after that. In fact, he never came back to the farm again and said he was just too busy.