Written By Galen White
Do you remember your mom’s old outside clothesline? The one she screamed for you to run to and bring in the clothes ’cause it had started to rain? The one that sun dried my blue jeans, and after Mom had added bluein’ and starch to the wash could stand on their own, were bullet proof, and by the time I got ’em broke in enough to wear, my legs and Fruit of the Looms were denim blue? The same one Dixie, my dog, just couldn’t resist jumpin’ up and catchin’ a pants leg or dress hem in her mouth and pullin’ them down to the ground? As many times as mom threatened to “skin that dog alive”, I knew she wouldn’t cause she knew just how much Dixie and I meant to each other.
I also remember the old wringer type washin’ machine sittin’ out on the back porch of our old house. It’s the same ol’ washin’ machine that taught a six year old a very valuable lesson, as well as left me with one of my fondest and funniest memories.
Now, a wringer washin’ machine had two rollers that pressed against each other, tight enough to squeeze water out of a dress, shirt, or pants, and leave ’em flatter’n a pancake. I always thought the clothes that had been run through the wringer looked funny, and reminded me of cartoon characters who had been run over by a steam roller.
I really don’t think I have to ‘splain further about my valuable lesson ’cause you are right. Ol’ Galen had to find out if my hand would be flat if I put it in the wringer. The answer is no. It didn’t come out flat. But my fingers came out skint up and sorer’n if I had hit ’em with a sledge hammer! I don’t recollect laughin’ a’tall!
The funniest memory came from the mid to late 1950’s, when my mom washed and ran through the wringer, a chicken snake. No, she didn’t hang it out on the clothesline to dry, but it’s safe to say the snake nearly hung my mother out to dry.
Back during the winter, my mom’s sister who lived in Dallas, Aunt Della, had given mom a hand-me-down summer dress. Mom rolled the dress up and put it in our clothes closet, which was nothing but the corner of a room, hidden behind a sheet draped over a rope which was tied between two nails in opposin’ walls. It was forgotten until this late spring day when she decided it was time to prepare the dress for wearin’. This, of course, meant washin’ and hangin’ it out on the clothesline.
Mom gathered up the clothes, along with the dress, and placed it in the agitator part of the washin’ machine where it agitated for a while in the hot, soapy water. A few minutes later, she picked up the edge of the dress and fed it through the wringer. From there, she put it in the clean, hot water, rinsed it around, and fed it again through the wringer.
That’s about the time she figured somethin’ wasn’t right ’cause the dress ‘felt lumpy” to her. So she grabbed the dress by its hem and gave it a good shakin’. And that’s when the chicken snake hit the floor.
Now, I’m convinced the snake was wonderin’ if he was being punished for what his ancestor did in the Garden of Eden – you know, convincin’ Adam he could eat of the forbidden fruit. Regardless of whether or not that was the case, the snake lit a shuck for the kitchen and slithered underneath the chifferobe.
I was about five or six years of age, and was sittin’ on the floor right up against the screen door that led out onto the front porch and yard, playin’ with what few worn out toys I had. My thoughts were deeply into drivin’ a truck when a faint noise interrupted my play. The noise came from the back porch where mom was washin’ clothes, and grew in volume and intensity along with the footsteps tramplin’ on the old wooden floor.
All of a sudden mom came blastin’ through the livin’ room, blew by me like a runaway freight train, shoved the screen door open to the point the hinges almost reversed themselves, and sailed out into the front yard never settin’ foot on the eight to ten feet of wooden porch between the door and yard!
Now, even as young as I was and after many folks had told me there was no such thing as the boogie man, I wasn’t completely convinced he didn’t exist. And mom, bein’ the fine Christian lady she was, hadn’t really helped me in this matter by tellin’ me the devil WAS real! When I realized the guttural scream was comin’ from Mom, I commenced to lookin’ ’round for the boogie man or Satan hisself! Neither one of which I really wanted to come face to face with.
A few seconds later when neither of the disciples from Hades appeared, I tried to fig’er out what my mom was screamin’ about. It soon registered that she was screamin’ “SNAAAAAAKKEEEEE! SNAKE! SNAKE! OOOHHHHHH, LORD HAVE MERCY, SNAAAAAAKEEE!!!.
Well, I hadn’t seen no snake, so I stepped out on the porch to offer whatever consolin’ I could. It didn’t matter none ’cause Mom was out of it. Oh, she hadn’t fainted or nothin’, it was just that nothin’ else in the world could penetrate her fear. Everything else simply didn’t exist.
After a couple of minutes gatherin’ her wits – which seemed to me to be scattered at least a couple miles in every direction – Mom regained her composure and lit a shuck down to the field where Jerry, my brother, was diskin’. He came back with her, got the .22 rifle, loaded a round of rat shot, and killed the snake. Although he was skint up a good bit and up until that time, the snake had been very much alive, and most likely, would have lived to steal another egg had Jerry not put an end to it.
Mom lived over the incident, but I could tell she never really liked to talk about it. Like I said, the snake and mom both had been through the wringer!
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.