HOUSECLEANING AND THE PEDDLER

 

By: Verna (Cook) Weatherly

 

Our father, Bill Cook, rarely talked about the past, except previously he did mention how much he liked his teacher, Art Cardwell, who taught at the Bates - Austin school.  He recalled how sick he had been with typhoid fever while in school, and for several months was forced to stay in bed away from school.  He loved to read, and did so during this absence.  When he returned to school, he graduated at the head of his 8th grade class at the Bates - Austin school.   Mr. Cardwell always told me our Dad was very smart.

 

One day when I was about thirteen, Dad and I were sitting on the top step of our front porch, and I was complaining about housework.  Dad opened up and started telling me stories of his childhood and how his brothers and sisters had solved the problem of house cleaning.

 

Dad told me about the house Grandpa Bert, his stepfather, and family had lived in during 1927-28, when Grandpa worked in the Oregon Lumber Company mill.  Grandmother had passed away, and there were six children, Ralph, Dad, Albert, Laurel, Maxine and Marion, ranging from about sixteen to as young as five or six years old. 

 

Our Dad had always called Grandpa Bert "The Old Man;" for him it was an endearing gesture.  "The Old Man had gone to work in the mill that day," he said.  "He left orders for us kids, to clean the entire house."  He was starting to grin by this time.  But I could tell by the lull in his voice it must have taken all those kids awhile to come up with a manageable plan.  He then said, "We decided to move all the furniture outside into the yard and hook up the water hose and hose down the house, inside and out."  He cheerfully added this last part of the sentence and he hung his head slightly and shot it from side to side, making a soft whistling sound as if only now realizing what had really happened.

 

I asked him if they actually moved an entire house of furniture, beds, sofas, kitchen tables, etc., out in the yard.  He went on painting this picture of a yard full of furniture and kids running all through the house, spraying with a water hose.  I felt I had the clear picture.

 

He also told me of a peddler coming to town.  Peddlers came into Bates a lot when I was a young girl.  They usually drove an old, often run-down truck, with a flat bed.  Along the side of his truck, he would tilt his bushels of fruit and vegetables, making the items easier to view. 

 

The peddler was pretty tough and durable and had a long history of experience, so it was important to know what you were doing.

 

Our Dad went on telling about his sister, Maxine, with red hair, who had grown into a teenager.  Their mother had passed away and Maxine was the oldest girl and tried hard to take over managing of the house.

 

Dad said, "On this day, the meat peddler (beef) came through town.  We always had fresh venison in the shed and never bought meat from anyone, but Maxine always had big ideas and had watched time and time again, the older ladies buy whatever they wanted from the peddler."

 

Dad hesitated a little, as if to try to remember just what really did happen.  "It all happened so fast, " he said.  "A peddler drove up in the front of the house, and Maxine jumped and ran out to his truck.  Her first time to try such a thing, and before we knew it, she had bought a lot of beef, which we didn't need."  He added, shaking his head, "The old man was pretty sore, he owed the peddler a lot of money."

 

I remember peddlers often coming into Bates when I was a little girl.  He carried mostly perishable items, such as fruit and vegetables.

 

A peddler knocked on our front door one day.  Most of the peddlers I remember had driven up in front of a house, and several women would go out and buy the product, then the peddler would jump in his truck and drive it down the street a little ways and stop again.  But this peddler seemed less friendly and appeared impatient as he asked Mom if she wanted to buy a box of peaches.  Mom asked the price.  He quickly said two or three dollars, whichever.  And Mom immediately gave him a firm, "No!"  He turned around and left.

 

After he was gone, our mother mentioned how high his prices were.  A little later we were ready to get in the car and drive to Prairie City.  Mom noticed, as she drove away and looking down the street, the peddler wasn't around.

 

We drove to the old "Y" (Inn) a few miles out of Bates and made our usual turn to the right onto Highway 26.  Mom just happened to glance over to the right, and about 200 feet off the road, under a large grove of pine trees, was a large mound of something yellow.  She quickly pulled the car off the road onto a mountain road to get a closer look.  It was a stack of peaches.  It looked like it must have been the full load of peaches the peddler had on his truck.

 

Our mother was shocked and very excited. She said, "That old peddler would rather throw these peaches out here on the ground than to ask a fair price."

 

She quickly motioned for all three of us kids to get in the car, and she very speedily drove to Ada Raines' house first and told her to get every container she could and come with her.  Several other friends were notified, and they rescued almost the entire truck load of peaches.

 

The peaches were in good shape.  Mom said very few were spoiled.  Needless to say, we did not go to Prairie City.  Mom went directly home, and her and Ada canned peaches for several days.