Chapter 3
Duties Willingly Done

 

In addition to our routine pastimes and pleasures, most boys had certain regular duties to do for the elderly or infirm, which were allocated to them by their mothers. Running errands, drawing water from wells, carrying in coals, cleaning lamps and lots of other chores. Girls, like my sister Netta, were expected to help their mothers as most families were large. Youngsters never expected any money or gifts of any kind. Such work was seen as a duty willingly done, no one was ever neglected. We all loved our minor tasks, even caring for the sick and elderly or infirm neighbours. Balmullo was indeed a happy place where even the gardens of those who needed help were communally dug and planted free as a pleasure rather than a chore.

Summer was a time for mums, grannies and big sisters to be outside toiling in tubs of soapy foam to wash blankets, sheets and curtains by hand or with possers. Water had to be carried from wells, dammed up steams or one solitary water pipe by the menfolk. It was a grand sight to see most village females, sleeves rolled up, sack apron on, rejoicing in the sunshine. The men fixed up long lines and washing was soon dripping out the water. In about four hours everything was dry and so very clean. Now we boys took over and helped the older folks. We went to their houses, carried their washed blankets and sheets to the home of a dear old lady up the School Brae. There the articles were mangled, or beatled, to fold them. We young ones loved to help with folding the blankets and sheets, beatling them or turning the big wheel of the mangle. Her charge for this folding service was one penny for one blanket and a sheet. She had lots of treacle toffee and peppermint sticks ready for every child who carried bundles and helped.

Each September the threshing mill came to the surrounding farms with its exciting steam engine and oats and wheat were put through the mill. This was the signal for us boys to carry all the mattresses in the surrounding houses to the farm, empty the tic-stuffing contents into the cattle courts, refill them with fresh free chaff from the mill and finally carry back the bulky bags to their owners. Jumping black fleas would get into our clothes from some mattresses and bite us all over. Then we would have to strip, search for and kill the fleas on each others bodies, wash outside in the cold and put on clean clothes before we were allowed into the house. Mum would boil and wash all the flea-infested clothes, as she was a stickler for cleanliness. The reward? That night we would sleep soundly and softly on very high sweet smelling beds. Unfortunately, it only took a few days for the chaff to settle and compact, so making for a very hard mattress and uncomfortable sleeping until the thresher returned a year later.

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.