Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mud on your face? It’s no disgrace!

The mother was horrified—her child had toddled into a microscopic clod of mud.  She scrubbed it with one of the wipes found in all right-minded supermarkets, then sanitized an entire shopping cart with wipes. My Mama called that a “cat bath,” only Mama did it on my face with a pocket-handkerchief moistened with saliva!

 I sighed. Little Mr. Clean may never touch mud again. His feet will go from carpet to tile to sidewalk to paved street without ever stepping in dirt, let alone mud like we knew on the dry farm where I grew up.

 I was not Little Miss Clean as my red overalls show. 
My brother Rex was not Little Mr. Clean, either.

Cousin Nelda and sister Brenda and I (blue swimsuit) sprayed 
each other with the hose before making mud pies.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding prideful—we made gorgeous mud pies. We stirred up dirt and water from the hose, patted it into shape, and covered it with wild flowers.  Then came the magic—tiny blue butterflies fluttered over, around, and on our pies.

Watching, we squished mud through our toes.

When it rained, dust in the low places on our road turned into a quagmire whose consistency ranged from molasses during the storm, to mayonnaise a day later. With three of these holes on the road from our house to the spot where the county graveled the road, we got stuck a lot.

The test of a good driver on dirt roads is how well you steer through a “puddle” or “mud hole”—actually, a small swamp.  Avoid the worst ruts, and hit the better spots at the right speed: not so fast that you fishtail and dig the car in deeper; not so slow that you lose traction. “Too fast” or “too slow”—you’re stuck; “just right,”—you’re on your way.

“We’re stuck!” Universal groan. With everybody out to reduce the car’s weight, a skillful driver might rock the car back and forth from first gear to reverse—a lot of gear shifting and clutch slamming with a standard transmission!—and eventually pick up enough traction to crawl out of the bog.  Usually, this didn’t work, and the passengers pushed. Skillful driving was still required.

Once, our uncles got stuck on the way to a Saturday night dance.  Cousin Ted spun the wheels while Uncle Bud pushed, catching a wake of mud. Then Uncle Verl sacrificed his best clothes; finally the car labored out.  Of course they dragged Ted from the car and plastered him with mud!

Our youngest uncle, John, seldom had anything new to show his brothers, so when he brought home a motorcycle, Bud and Ted jumped on for a quarter-mile ride.  They hit a bump—Ted shot off and landed in the puddle, then Bud landed face-first, stretched out in the mire. 

Later, when my cousin Marilyn and I were 14, and Driver’s Ed was still on the horizon, we caught the scent of spring mud.  Marilyn had driven hay trucks since she was nine, so we jumped into their Oldsmobile for a joy ride.  No need for shoes—we were in the car, right? 

An hour later, after trudging a mile through thistles, we got to a phone and begged Uncle Ern to bring the tractor.

Sometimes, even rocking and pushing aren’t enough.