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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The War of The Roses

By Nancy Leitz

I am going to bring back an issue I had with my Mother that I always thought would be disclosed ONLY on a psychiatrist’s couch! But, I am going to tell you about it now because after 68 years it actually seems funny and you might enjoy the absurdity of it.

When I was a kid on Cypress Street in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, both the milkman and the breadman came on our street in a horse and wagon. The horses often relieved themselves in the street. Huge piles of horse manure were common.

After it dawned on my Mother that the manure would make a wonderful fertilizer for her rose garden, she sent me into the street with a bucket and shovel to pick up the horse poop. It was still steaming and I had to wait for it to cool, and that was bad because it gave the flies time to find out about it, gather around and add to the fun I was having scooping up horse manure from the street.

Flies from as far away as Fernwood would get word and zoom over to the pile. Of course, every kid for five miles around heard about the girl who shoveled manure every day and they would pedal over on their bikes as fast as they could so they wouldn't miss one minute of my humiliation. I would take one shovelful, put it in my bucket, flail my arms to chase the flies, and do the nasty job as fast as I could so the kids would go away.

Of course, all my so-called pals also saw me in the street shoveling manure into my bucket and they also stood around taunting and laughing at me. Their Moms didn’t make them pick up horse manure, so they could say almost anything they wanted to me with impunity.

This went on all spring and summer. As soon as the milkman appeared on the street the kids would gather around the pile and wait for me to show up with my shovel. How humiliating! Several times I would just finish up the milk horse's poop and the breadman would come along with his horse. On days when that happened, my life wasn't worth living. If the bread horse did anything on the street I had to get that too because my Mother never wanted to run out of this terrific, free fertilizer.

Everyone wondered what I was muttering as I shoveled. I never told anyone before but now I will let you know what I was saying to myself. It was this: "If my Mother thinks for one minute that she is getting any Lady Esther Face Cream from me this Christmas (See Christmas Shopping 1939) she has another think coming. If she doesn't stop this, it's Pond's for her."

I begged my Mother not to make me do this anymore but my pleas fell on deaf ears. The roses were stunning, bushy and bright, and she wasn’t about to give that up for my vanity. Her roses won blue ribbons at the flower show, cars would drive up our street just to look at Mother's roses, but her daughter was a candidate for the couch!

Thank God we moved from that house two years later and now the roses belonged to somebody else and, on top of that, both the milkman and the breadman got trucks and put their horses out to pasture.

Now that I have told the whole world about it, I feel better.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The story cupboard is nearly bare. Time for any readers inclined to share yours to send them along.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Nancy, I thought I had some real doozies of issues with my mother - but this takes the cake!!

I would have revolted.

Thanks for the story. You bring back memories. I can relate to the pressures of being ordered to do some things as a child that were humiliating. The order was given and any questions or protests were ignored. I muttered things as well; not suitable for print.
Lady Esther and Pond’s creams…Ahh, I remember them well…

Thanks, Judy and Claire Jean for commenting on my story.

I can laugh about it now but it wasn't so humorous then. But, aside from the "poop" problem, I had a fairly decent childhood. My Mother always got the Lady Esther so that proves something, I guess.

Your mumblings were so tame! I'm sure I would have been murmuring the obvious about the task. The roses weren't the only thing your mother raised well.

Nancy, what a wonderful story, but only in a sense that I can tell my children it if they complain about having to clean up the kitchen. I do hope you mother was kind and empathetic in other areas. It is hard to understand why she couldn't go and pick up the manure herself, if it meant so much to her.

Sad and funny at the same time, and so smoothly written, it was enjoyable to read.

Are you my sister? This sounds like one of my mother's stunts!!!!

Thank God our milkman and bread man drove trucks!!!!!

Hello Marty, Lia, Leah and Kay,

Thanks very much for your great comments.

I so appreciate it when you all read my stories and say such nice things.

You encourage me to remember other stories from my childhood to tell you.

What a remembrance! I would have been certain to tell my friends' mothers all about the magic properties of the fertilizer, just to spread my misery around. Sigh. Moms really love to "build character," don't they?

Hello Nance,

Thank you very much for visiting Ronni's site and for reading and commenting on my story.

I hope you have a chance to read one or two of the others I have written.

I love your blog, "Dept.of Nance" and hope some of the readers here visit you and see how much fun you have.

I don't know how I missed seeing this Wednesday, but I'm glad I checked previous stories this morning. I can imagine your having to scoop the poop and swatting flies. You didn't mention what was, perhaps, the worst part of this chore -- the odor. Phew !!! I can smell it now. ;)

Ah! Yes, Darlene, the sweet smell of fresh,still steaming manure!!

I can close my eyes now and that odor drifts back to me over the 68 years since I last got a whiff of it......

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode when Kramer bought too many cans of baked beans and to get rid of them he fed it to the Central Park carriage horses? On the rides, every time the horse lifted his huge tail a gust of "baked beans odor" filled the carriage. It was a riot.

I thought of my manure days as I watched that story......

Thanks for commenting, Darlene....

All I can say is.....YOU WERE A SAINTLY CHILD DEAR NANCY. Not many children I know would have done that chore without a little 'lip' or 'sass' or some kind of rebellion. Your mom was very lucky indeed. Icky poo-poo.

Oh my gosh, your childhood horror story takes the cake (or horse pie as some might say.) You have caused me to recall a task I put on my precious daughter when she was eight and I think I'll send her an apology right now.

Great story!

Hello You Two,

Joy and Granny Annie,

It's always fun to think all comments are done and then find new ones from old friends.

Glad you liked my story and thanks for letting me know.

I always like your stories,too!

Dear Nancy.
This story captures an interesting slice of life of the way children and adults related in the 30s and 40s.
Children then were expected to obey their parents, even if what they were asled to do was terribly unpleasant.
There was no debating the issue like there is today. Probably, this wasn't totally fair to the children. but it sure beats having to cajole, threaten, bribe and persuade children today to do a reasonable task like pick up and put away their toys.
Celia Jones

Yes, Celia, and how about the way parents praise their children for the least little thing.

"Good breathing,Mary Lou." or "You ate all of your candy bar, Nelson, Wonderful eating." Clap, Clap !!!!

All of these kids reach puberty thinking they are the most special kid in 2,000 years! Then they demand instant gratification. I must have it!

People like us are grateful for every single thing we ever get in adulthood. And the things we are happy to get are things we have worked for......

Hi Nancy,
Boy did this bring back a memory! One I've never mentioned either. One time Some One Who Hates Children decided to offer free urinanalysis if kids brought their pee to school! I was tempted to throw away the notice they sent home, but I didn't dare. We didn't have a lot of money, so my mother felt it was good to take advantage of this. I had my pee in a bottle inside a brown paper bag. As I walked to school I put the bag in the gutter, but then got scared I'd be in big trouble so went back and picked it up. When I got to the class room I was the only one with a paper bag! (maybe there were one or two others, but I felt totally alone and humiliated) The teacher made us put the bags on our desks!!! I'm sure the rest of the kids tore up those notices before their parents could get a look at them. I guess my mother was a lot more worried about my physical health than my mental health.

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