Babies, Bath Water and Beef

Posted by Sharon Labels: , ,

I chose the title of this blog  (Ridin’, Reinin’ and Writin’) because I thought it summed up the interests in my life at this time of my life. I’ve ridden horses all my life, reined for the last thirty plus years and recently pursued another passion – writing. As I look back on over 80 blog posts, I see that I have covered those topics (the ‘writing’ part is all topics in general and those that don’t have a horse in them in particular). As I’ve said a few times, I write here about whatever thought is uppermost in mind that week.

The last few posts were inspired by a trunk filled with memorabilia of my life. This one is connected in a way too, for in that trunk are my baby book and the ones I made for my three children as well as baby blankets and a crocheted baby sweater/ blanket set. As you can imagine, these treasures stirred up a lot of memories of those years. If the technology had been what it is today, my blog would have been quite different in the years I raised my family. The title might have been Babies, Bath Water and Beef because that’s what occupied my mind then.
My husband was employed as a Pasture Manager for a Community Pasture that pastured around 1500 adult cattle. We lived in the house the Department of Agriculture provided. The little house did come with electricity, but that’s where any modern conveniences ended. We did not have indoor plumbing or sewage and I did not have a washer or drier when our first baby arrived. What I did have was a wood stove in the basement and a wringer washer. I washed clothes twice a week – everything on Monday and a smaller “baby wash” on Friday. Wash day started with me building a fire in the stove, then packing in water from outside (if I was lucky, rain water was in a barrel at the corner of the house; if not, I had to carry it uphill from a pump) and pouring it into a copper boiler on the stove to heat.
Copper boiler like the one I used to heat wash water.

Wood stove like the one in my basement

When the water in the boiler was hot (really hot so I could mix cold with it), I transferred it to the wringer washer, let it agitate for some time, wrung the load out and put another load in. Of course I sorted loads appropriately with dish towels at the beginning and jeans at the end. Diapers (all cloth that I had sewed myself) I pre-rinsed of course. I would wash a few loads, empty the washer, fill the washer again, rinse the first loads, add soap and wash the rest, empty, fill, etc… I hauled dirty water up stairs in five gallon buckets. On Friday, I usually boiled the diapers. All wash I transferred to laundry baskets and carried them outside to hang on the line – winter or summer. In the winter, everything came back in stiff as boards. With fingers froze I wrestled it all back into the house to hang on racks or over chairs to dry. I had the whitest diapers anywhere! I can still smell that “fresh laundry” air in the house – almost made it worth it!

We heated water for bathing on the electric stove upstairs and transferred it to a tin tub in the little bathroom. In those years, only the babies bathed every day – at first in a yellow plastic tub on my table - since all bath water had to be hauled in and out just like the wash water.

I was young and strong when I started my family and none of this intensive labour bothered me. In those years, husbands did not take the active role they do now and although my husband changed the odd diaper, the feedings night and day were my responsibility since I was breast feeding. My days were unbelievably long caring for my family, cooking meals from scratch (that meant growing a garden, making butter, dressing chickens…). Keep in mind – no running water (except running to the well…) no indoor plumbing…). I worked the exhaustive days without complaint . . . until one day in July when Shayne was about ten and a half months.

I was eight months pregnant with my second child, Cindy and Shayne was not walking yet. My husband was in the house and it was wash day. I had heated the water, washed the clothes, probably hung them on the line and now it was time to empty the wash water into the five gallon pails and carry them up the flight of stairs from the basement and outside. I was awkward, of course going up the stairs with the buckets - and hot! All at once, it hit me – why wasn’t my husband doing this? I set the pails down at the door at the top of the stairs and went to find him. He was sleeping on the couch! I admit it – I lost it! I don’t remember what I said but I know I really read him the riot act... And I remember his startled look. I can't say I blamed him - it was the first time I had ever yelled at him. He looked like he didn’t know me… Did he carry out the wash water? I’m pretty sure he did...

I learned I had a voice that day…

So, to go back to the baby items I found in that trunk – yes, I cherish them and the memories but I’m so glad mothers today have it easier. They will have more time to hold or play with their babies (while the wash is doing itself…)

There was always a connection with riding, even in those years. After I put lunch on the table for my husband I would run to the barn for a short ride while he watched the children. And I rode long days at roundup time on the community pasture, sometimes with the baby in a basket on the seat of the truck at the edge of the herd while we cut.
I would have been lots to blog about in those years would I have had time to do it? Or would my days be filled with "babies, bath water and beef" and all the other in my job description then. Guess I know the answer to that...


  1. Verna

    Inspite of it all, those really were good years. Now, Mom likely takes the baby to the sitter and heads for her 9 to 4 PAYING job... and misses a lot of important things in the process!

  1. Sharon

    Yes, they were good years, Verna, and they went by too soon. There was something to be said for 24/7 time with the babies... and I really didn't mind the heavy work load most of the time. It would kill me now, though...