Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uphill in the Snow, Both Ways

It took me 20 years to appreciate pinto beans and cornbread.
Mom was fond of reminding us of the starving children in Biafra and although I had no idea where that was, knew that it didn't make the weekly pot of beans and ham hocks taste any better. And it wasn't that I didn't like the taste of beans; I didn't like the thought of beans.

One of the patrons at the library today brought in stories written by his grandmother, one of the original settlers in northern Minnesota. As Jack read, he'd throw in a personal experience here and there: growing up without electricity or indoor plumbing, and riding 30 miles to school every day, in a wagon... in the snow, both directions. And so it started.

Pretty soon we were all bragging about who had the most snow on their bidirectional hill. Rita grew up in rural Wyoming (as if there were a part of Wyoming that was not rural) and shared stories about canning, baking bread and making the kid's clothes. I was still reading Jack's grandmother's journal and announced that she'd put up 500 jars of tomatoes, beans and fruit. "In one year??" Rita replied. "Yep...that's what it says. Sears and Roebuck must have thrown a party when they got the order for canning jars that year."

I didn't like wringing out wet towels and jeans any more than I liked hanging the laundry on lines strung in a cat's cradle across the kitchen, livingroom or bathroom to dry on cold winter days. But I loved bathing in the rinse water. We didn't have a washing machine, so mom filled the bathtub with towels, coloreds and a cup of powdered Tide, and then whichever child was handy would roll up their pants legs, climb in and stomp the mix until the sudsy soup turned a light blue. Then she'd pull the plug and refill the tub until the water level just touched the overflow. After ringing out the last of the wash, we'd hop in and stir up the remaining suds playing submarine until our fingers and toes shriveled like pink raisins.

I probably lost 90% of my potential reading audience with the title alone, but for those of you remaining, rest assured that one day you too will be sharing tales of yore with anyone not quick enough to see them coming and dodge for the nearest exit (uphill, in the snow, both ways).


  1. Very funny. I never liked pinto beans and cornbread either until I left home. Now I cook them often!

  2. I'd love to have some hocks, pintos, and hot cornbread right now, and I definitely would walk uphill, both ways in the snow to get some!

  3. Thanks, everyone. I actually made meatloaf for the first time since we moved to Arkansas. So good. I'm sure there's a meatloaf story to be told as well...