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Tomorrow morning at 9 am my spouse is meeting our contractor and they are getting our washer and dryer from the warehouse. It will be the first thing of ours to be moved in to the upstairs.

Washing is a simple thing. When I was a kid we lived in the woods in the tent for weeks at a time. We did laundry the old fashioned way sometimes and sometimes we went to town to go to the laundry mat. Mostly it was the wash in a bucket and hang under the canvas canopy we had strung over the top of the picnic table.

The canopy was heavy and green. It wobbled when the rain came up because the trees were hardly strong enough to hold it with all of the water that it consumed even though it was “waterproofed.” As we got older and the budget was a little bit looser we got 4 poles, one for each corner. The top still sagged and sometimes I think it was better in the old tree day. We usually used three of the four poles and made a trough for the water to roll down. It never rolled. Every so often one of us would go poke the growing bulbous dropping of the canvas that threatened to explode at any moment and make the water roll down. If we got it right no one got wet with the splashing water hitting the mud on the ground. As kids, we sometimes thought we got it right if we splashed each other fully when the water rolled down.

The clothes were hung under the canvas tarp on lines that were mostly above our heads but below the top of the tarp. There really was not much between the clothes to be dried and the rain that was making them wet again after their wash. It rained most weeks and sometimes most days. Sometimes it would rain days on end. Dry clothes were those you could get warmed up after a while when you put them on. Wet ones were dripping water or after you had them on about 10 minutes they were still cold.

When it would rain for a long time Mama would load us up on the old station wagon and we would bump down the the 25 miles on the dirt road to town. We left early in the morning since the ride took nearly an hour and we had big doings in town. When we got there we would wash the clothes, get groceries and sundries like candles and matches. If life was good, go to lunch at the local diner in the small town near where we lived in the mountains in our tent.

Sometimes we got to go to the 5 and dime store and get something special. I usually got marbles. I always thought marbles were the most beautiful things. I liked the clear ones, not the milky ones. I never knew how to play marbles, I just pretended like had I actually wanted to play marbles, not just look at them, I could have.

As the years passed the roads got better and the camping equipment less military in style. We stopped going camping every summer about 40 years ago but I can still hear the sizzle of the Coleman stove as the water bubbled over on it as we tried to balance making hot tea to drink at the same time we heated water to wash clothes.

Tomorrow we get our washer and dryer. I am not sure how it compares to getting to go to town to wash clothes when you are wet and have been in the mud for days. I do know how it will feel to have access to clean clothes.

Washing at the laundry mat has been a bit difficult because of our muddy drive to the house. I guess that is why I thought of camping and washing the clothes all mingled with mud tonight. Because of the mud we were parking down by the road and walking up what amounts to a city block. When you took the clothes to the car to go to town to wash it was OK. They were all balled up and if you dropped them in the mud on the way to the car you could scoop them up and chuck them back in the hamper and keep slogging to the car in your mud boots.

mud fork

Notice the shovel and fork leaned against each other in the right of the photo. Until the mud dried they were so often used they stayed standing on ready.

On the way back the hike from the house to the lower mud pit we had for a driveway was a nightmare. The mud was so deep it dragged at your muck boots trying to suck them off your feet, sometimes successfully. The footing was slippery and if you did not get sucked in you could slide across like you were skating on creme brulee without the brulee. Making more than one trip the distance of that city block in the mud was hard enough to tempt you to carry too much stuff at once. Wrangling the laundry hamper and the few clothes we had on hangers made it very unpleasant to go to town to wash.

We got into conserving clothes. We were ever so careful to keep everything you can off of the clothes. Even my paint clothes, all covered in paint, were protected from dirt and other noxious substances like the crumbs from dinner. Our bedroom is so small and with my custom of protecting and wearing multiple times my work clothes, I had a pile by my side of the bed which is 16 inches from the wall. One day I was rummaging around looking for pants and my spouse said to me, “Oh, I think they are somewhere in your dirty clothes pile there.” I turned, affronted, and replied, “This is not a dirty clothes pile, it is my wardrobe.”

We have had a couple of weeks of no mud. Today it is raining again and the previously dried rough ground is becoming pockmarked with puddles. The dirt is glistening, beckoning the unwary to step out on its viscous surface so it can snap you and anything you carry down like tentacled creature in a horror movie.

The washer and dryer are arriving tomorrow. We may not have much improvement in the cleanliness of the clothes if the washer and dryer themselves go belly up in the mud. I am not sure how you wash a washer and dry a dryer.