Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I said, "Don't Play in the Garbage Pit!!"

Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It actually contains more than 15,000 bodies of water whose total shoreline exceeds 90,000 miles - more than California, Hawaii and Florida combined. In order to be classified as a lake, the water surface must be equal to or exceed 10 acres. Now I didn't just pull those numbers out of my head - I'm not THAT smart. You know you can find anything on the internet.

Western North Dakota is not blessed with that much water. In fact, most of western North Dakota doesnt' have "lakes," it has sloughs (sounds like slew). A slough (at least in our part of the world) is defined as a pond or stagnant body of water. Most of them have lots of cat tails or rushes growing in them or around the edges. And in the summertime they usually smell due to the fact that they have no flowing water - no inlet or outlet.

Somewhere in the southwestern corner of the state, my Dad's construction company spent an entire summer trying to build a road through one of these sloughs. The State dictated that the road had to go THROUGH the slough, not around it for some reason. You know how the government is, they don't HAVE to have a logical reason to do anything! Anyway, the road crew would dump truckload after truckload of dirt into this slough trying to build a base for the gravel and it would just disappear. They calculated that they hauled enough dirt to have filled the slough, but it all kept disappearing. I remember a number of times watching heavy equipment get stuck in this slough and having bigger, heavier equipment come in to pull it out. At one point they even lost a gravel truck to the slough - it just sank out of sight, never to be recovered. It probably showed up in China somewhere a month or two later. That's probably where all that gravel is too. At this point I don't remember what the outcome of that road was, whether it was ever finished or rerouted, but I vividly remember watching that gravel truck going down never to be seen again.

As I said in a previous entry, getting groceries was quite an outting on Saturday afternoon. Thirty miles of gravel roads doesn't make this an easy job. You can't exactly "run to the store" whenever you run out of something, and that distance made it difficult to keep things like milk, meat and fresh produce in enough quantity to get you through till the next time you went to the store. Remember we were lucky to have a refrigerator, and the freezer was only big enough to hold a couple of trays of ice cubes. So many of the "road people" got acquainted with the local ranchers and farmers for their supplies. This way we could always buy fresh garden vegetables, eggs, milk, and on occasion if a rancher was butchering, fresh beef or pork. I remember we ate a lot of chicken because that was easy to get.

Extremely vivid in my memory is the time I went with my mother to a close rancher to buy fresh chicken. This was so fresh it was still running around in the chicken yard! Mrs. Rancher caught three chickens and put their necks on the chopping block. Down came the axe and she quickly tossed them in the air. What followed has stayed in my mind for a lifetime. Those bodies flew what seemed to be ten feet in the air, wings flapping, bounced on the ground and then back up in the air again, several times before they finally settled on the ground, blood spurting all over. It took years before I would eat chicken again. Every time my mother would put it on the table I would start to cry.

I also remember when I discovered where eggs came from. I had made friends with one of the little Rancher Girls, and would be invited over to play for the afternoon. One of her jobs was to pick eggs twice a day. One afternoon we were in the chicken coop trying to get the eggs from under the hens and prevent those old hens from pecking our hands as we reached in, when one of the old hens started to cackle up a storm. She lifted her heavy body up on the nest for a bit and pooped out an egg!! That was all she wrote, folks - to this day I really don't like eggs!!

The picture below is of some of the "camp kids" playing "road building" in the dirt. I don't remember who the two kids are on the left, but that's Big Brother on the far right, me in the center, and one of "those Thuringer kids" between me and Big Brother. The building on wheels in back of us is the "cook car" I spoke of previously.

"Those Thuringer kids" were awful. There were five of them, all boys, and they were mean, evil, bad, nasty and rotten. They were constantly beating each other up, and if they couldn't pick a fight with one of their brothers they'd go find one of the other "camp kids" to beat up. They didn't have to have a reason, they just liked to fight. They were always causing trouble around camp, and getting the other kids in trouble along with them.

I remember one day when they caused me to get the spanking of my life, a hairbrush on my bare bottom. They talked me into going with them to play in the garbage pit. This was a very deep hole that was dug at each campsite for people to throw their trash in and then it would be buried when we moved on. The sides of the hole were steep and you can imagine how awful and full of flies this pit was in the hot weather with people's food scraps and who knows what else rotting in the sun. Now every morning when Big Brother and I would go outside my mother would shake her finger at us and say, "Stay away from the garbage pit, or else." One day one of the Thuringer boys convinced me that I could find lots of treasures down in the garbage pit, so down we went, slid down the side and into the garbage. Apparently it didn't smell bad that day because I don't remember having the urge to get out. But we spent some time digging around down there when who should appear at the top edge of the pit but my Mother. I knew then that I better scramble back up to the top, where she grabbed me by the arm and home we went. I just remember that hairbrush hurting a lot and then having to take a bath in that big galvanized tub and it wasn't even Saturday!! YECH!!! - for the garbage pit, not the tub.

Uffda - my backside STILL stings!

Love, Lena


StitchinByTheLake said...

Wonderful trip down memory lane Lena! blessings, marlene

Marge said...

I didn't play in a garbage pit, but I did play in a big garbage dump pile. And I also had a sore backside afterwards!

The parsonage where I grew up out in the country in Iowa, was next to a wooded cow pasture. In the far corner was a gate, off a narrow dirt road, and a huge pile of junk that wasn't burnable that the owner dumped there periodically. What a treasure pile that was! We found beautiful cobalt blue jars of some kind of smelly stuff, canning jars filled with obviously rotted foods, and cans and jars filled with good stuff like bacon grease. Oh, my, did we create a mess! I remember having a red jacket (a hand me down from someone) and after playing in that bacon grease it had a huge blackish colored stain all over the front! And it stunk! And I'm guessing I didn't get a new jacket until the next year either!

Oh, you bring back memories!