Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dead Horses eat money, too

I'm sitting here with the phone next to me, waiting for a repair guy to call. I went down into the basement to get a load of clothes out of the dryer this afternoon, only to find the towels as wet and as cold as they'd been an hour earlier when I turned on the dryer and assumed, since it started, they were drying. Argghh. I was hoping last year would be the end of my appliance grave yard spree where appliances were dying and leaving faster than we could keep up with them. I got a new washer in October and then the refrigerator died on Christmas Day. We had a major truck repair job last year, too. All told, we paid out something like $1700 on what Dear Hubby calls "dead horses". So true. But without them Life suddenly becomes a lot less easier. If the repair guy doesn't call pretty soon...I was told I'll either be the first stop on his route tomorrow or his last, depending on which side of the city has the most jobs needed doing...I may be spending part of my day at the laundromat. My luck, he'll be here at 10 o'clock tomorrow nite. By that time my towels will be growing mold.

I really don't mind laundromats. I spent a lot of time at one in Hazel Dell when Dear Hubby and I were first married. We rented a mobile home on some back acres of a friend's grandparents' place and it was so tiny...12'x56', I think it was...there wasn't any room for a washer and dryer. But somehow two bedrooms were squeezed in to it. It was nestled in amongst a big stand of fir trees and we had a covey of quail who lived in the fruit orchard bordering it to the north. We'd see pheasant, too. Our landlord allowed Dear Hubby to build a kennel so we could keep our Black Lab with us. A stray cat adopted us and I'd set out a bowl of food for her that baby opossums would come and eat out of as well, coming out only at nite. I could lie down on the carpet on the inside of the sliding doors and watch them eat, nose to nose with me, thru the glass. We lived very happily there for 2 1/2 years, until our daughter arrived and we almost immediately outgrew it. That was back in the days of cloth diapers and I'd take the baby, all of our regular laundry, and a big diaper pail full of smelly diapers to the laundromat two, sometimes three, days a week. I'd put Kaitlin's car seat on top of a washer or dryer while I sorted laundry and the vibrations from the machines would put her to sleep. Only a few months of that and we were ready to move, tho...her playpen took up most of the living room.

So then we found our "Little House on the Prairie", tho it was in reality a rundown old dump of a house in Woodland, Washington, out on the river bottom land not even a mile from the Columbia River. I can't remember what we paid for it...$15,000?? Our house payments were $125 per month. We were such idealistic homesteaders. We figured we could tough it out for a few years, then tear the shack down and put a new double wide mobile home on the acre and a half. That was back in the mid-70s and as soon as we moved there, gas prices took a pretty big hike. Nothing like today's prices, but Dear Hubby was making around $5 per hour back then and that was enough for us to live on with me being a stay-at-home mom. He had to commute 25 miles to work. We had one vehicle, so I couldn't very easily take him to work and then run around all day. I went grocery shopping once a week and basically stayed home. In our shack. Out in the middle of nowhere. The dream of it was so much better than the reality of it was. We had two baseboard heaters that worked. We installed a cheap wood stove. We almost froze that first winter. We even took cedar shakes off the side of the shack to use as fire wood. When we'd go to bed at nite, the winds that would howl across the bottom lands caused our closet doors in the bedroom to waft open and shut...open and shut. Field mice decided to nest inside for the winter, too. We set out all kinds of traps and as soon as we turned the lights off, traps began snapping shut all over the house. We had an old well with a decrepit pump. Water pressure was so bad that if we wanted to take a bath we'd have to start running the water in the tub 45 minutes before we bathed so we'd have at least a few inches of water to bathe in. Oh, it was homesteading, all right! We have photos of Kaitlin, our little ray of sunshine who was happy no matter what, sitting in her crib dressed up in footy pajamas, an extra shirt over them, and her coat on. A big smile on her face! Fresh air must be good for babies...she was as healthy as a horse.

But...you know...the funny thing about tough times like that is they grow sweeter in the passage of years. We look back at it now and laugh. We endured. We didn't end up ever tearing that shack down...we moved on about a year later to another town and rented a house there for a while, then moved here to Portland where we've been for almost 30 years now. Several years ago my mom and I went to the Oak Tree Restaurant in Woodland for lunch one day and I decided to drive by our old homestead. In its place was a lovely new ranch style house, set up right about where we would've put our double wide if our dreams had come true. But our dreams weren't meant to be. Not there, anyway. But someone else's had come true, and I drove away feeling good.

1 comment:

Mrs. Parks said...

Our family moved from West Linn to Friday Harbor Washington in 1978 to "homestead." We lived in a wall tent, three of us girls and my parents for 19 weeks while we built a log cabin. No electricity, wood heat and many trips to the laundromat in town. Your right, the memories get better as the years pass ;)
Hope the repair man cometh early!