Wet Clothes In Winter Smelled

Kids dried clothing beside coal heater in one-room schoolhouse.

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I was born on a Nebraska farm in 1907. That must have been before the word deodorant was in the dictionary.

I attended a one room country school where over forty people had to breathe the same air for eight hours.

In snowy wet weather our clothes would be wet by the time we walked to school. We would dry our wet clothes standing near the old coal heater. We didn't have enough clothes to change every day or have the facilities to take baths. Some of the older boys ran their trap line on the way to school, and sometimes caught a skunk or two.

Prying our lid off our syrup pail dinner bucket, we got another whiff of stale air from the food in that air tight container. I carried that old bucket for eight years.

Sometimes just to get a breath of fresh air we held up our hand with one finger extended, a nod from the teacher gave us permission to go to the outhouse. We didn't tarry long as the smell of the outhouse would almost peel the skin off the inside of your nose.

Summer time at home meant cow piles and old black chicken manure that got between your bare toes. Cleaning them, your fingers were involved.

Butchering time always brought its share of smells. It was my job to help clean the intestines of the hogs for sausage stuffing. They had to be emptied, turned wrong side out and scraped and soaked. Cleaning chickens you had to remove those wet, smelly feathers that stuck to your fingers and made you gag.

Making soap you had to stir the hot grease and lye in an old iron kettle over an open fire. It would tickle your nose and take your breath away. Then there was the smoke from the fire.

There were good smells, good times, friendship and the love of your family. But that is another story.

Pearl Shockley
Owensville, Missouri


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.