Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who Remembers the Lard Pail?

I've been very lax in blogging the past few months.  The weather has been oppressive and my ambition has stalled along with the weather.   Mother Nature has given Iowans a summer to remember.  We've had no rain since mid-June.  The farmers are losing their hard-earned crops and the local trees and lawns are suffering.  I can't wait for September.

How did we survive in those days before air conditioning?  Did I mention I hate hot weather?  Even as a kid, I could never tolerate the heat and humidity.  Probably all caused by my fair complexion ... complete with sunburn and freckles.  Add it all together and I became a whiny little kid in the intense summer  heat.  Especially if Mom decided to pull me away from my chosen book of the day and push me outside.

What does all this have to do with a lard pail you ask?

Lard pails came in several different sizes.  The ones we used were a little bigger than a Crisco can.  They had a nifty handle and families used them for multiple chores until they were either dented beyond recognition, rusted or totally worn out.  Grandma used one to feed the chickens and we used them to gather veggies from the garden.  Mom remembers using one to take her lunch to school.  Very nifty little things were lard pails.  My friend, Sue, reminded me that every kitchen had one setting on the stove to collect bacon grease.

I hated them ...

If  Mom said, "Evelyn, grab a lard pail...."  It always involved work and I was a typical kid.  Working was not at the top of my list.  Heck, it wasn't even in the middle of my list.

The one job at the very top of  the list (that involved a lard pail) was picking gooseberries.  Now, if you are not familiar with gooseberries, let me tell you.  They are not very big ... about the size of a pea.  Do you know how many  berries you have to pick to fill a lard bucket?   Too damn many, I can tell you.


They also grow on a bush with little picky things that cut your hands to pieces ... unless you wear gloves.  And then, because you are going to the woods, you have to wear long pants and SHOES.  Egad, I would have to shove my feet into shoes?  I've been going barefoot all summer.  My feet are tough and spread out in all their glory.  They do not fit into shoes until Labor Day!!  You want me to go pick berries??

No getting out of it.  My sister and I set out down the gravel road and across the bridge.  Then we turn left and into the woods along the river where the wild gooseberries grow.  Eileen doesn't want to be there any more than I do, and she will contribute to my misery by rustling the bushes and mentioning bears and assorted wild animals that are certainly lurking to take my life.

So, here I am with the darn lard pail hanging from my belt, banging against my body, while I pick berries with both hands and try to keep the bugs from flying in my hot, red little face .... all the while worrying that something or somebody was creeping up behind me.  Did I mention that I was a whiny kid that didn't like heat ... or bugs and big sisters who scared the bejezuz out of you?

Mom had sent us off on our journey with her final cheerful words ... "Don't come back until your buckets are full."  We knew that to do so would incur our having to make a second trip. Not gonna happen.  We would come dragging back up the gravel road .. sweaty, bug bitten and scratched within an inch of our lives.  But those lard buckets would be full.

Then Mom would make gooseberry jam ......  I don't even like gooseberry jam.



  1. I enjoyed your story! My mom always talked about herself and her brothers picking gooseberries - they all grew up in Iowa too. I'm linking to your post in my Friday Finds this week.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Kathy. Glad you enjoyed the story.

    2. Found your blog today while trying to explain roller skate keys to my 6 and 8 year-old granddaughters. I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, and we used to go to Rockford to visit friends. I live now on a farm near Henderson, IA. Loved reading your stories - I think we had the same childhood.

    3. We're practially neighbors. I'm in Council Bluffs. Have many fond memories of Mason City as we always went to the movies and Hassie's drive-in on Saturday date night.

    4. We are practically neighbors. In August my sister and I and our daughters went on what I called my "Childhood Nostalgia Tour". We went to Mason, Clear Lake, St. Ansgar, West Bend, and Algona. Did you go to Birdsalls? One of our favorite places.