One very spry lady once unknowingly taught me where the term “dirt poor” originated.
Born in the late 1800s, this sweet little old lady told me that she and her sisters grew up isolated from almost everyone on a farm where nothing came easy.
“We really were so poor that the only thing we could say for sure is that we had plenty of dirt,” I still remember her saying with a little grin. “I’m not complaining, mind you,” she added. “We had each other, and that was enough.”
Shaking the rugs
She spoke of working together with her mom and sisters to make rag rugs, putting them to use in the house, later working hard to beat all the dirt out of them.
“We carried the mud out, beat the devil out of those old rugs, and before sunset, someone had carried it all right back in,” she said of the never-ending war of dirt.
During this time of year, those of us who live on and love farm and country life find ourselves with one thing in great supply. This is when the dirt becomes mud a’plenty. It is the one thing that gets tiresome, but when I feel like belly aching, I think of that sweet little old lady, living in a house with dirt floors, and realize I need to quit complaining.
Stories have been told of homes built during the great march westward (which were often abandoned when the dirt blowing in through cracks and crevices simply could not be fought any longer). Mud, made from the very dirt being battled, was often used to patch holes, but after a certain length of battle, it was deemed time to throw in the towel.
A search for a better spot to build would be found, the construction would begin, which in itself would have been no small task, cutting logs and creating lumber as they went. When it was finished, families would pack up their worldly goods in a simple basket and lay claim to a new place to call home.
Sidewalks and concrete landings have helped in the mud battle on farms and country homes, but the war is still being waged to keep more dirt outside than inside. This time of year, as our piles of snow melt and rain falls, the mop and bucket gets plenty of overtime duty.
I have a feeling most of us can recall being scolded as youngsters for messing up a perfectly mopped floor. When I asked my hubby about his memory on this topic, he said, “Ask me to tell you about a day I didn’t get in trouble for that, why don’t you? That might be easier to count.”
One reason the barn seems so inviting is that no one ever got yelled at for tracking in mud while out doing chores!
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