Spring Cleaning and Smelts

MVC-025SIt seems so good to see some green again. There are some very cold nights but the days are warm. The mittens and knit hats are put away for another season and the dreaded long, brown stockings are stashed in my bureau drawer. I hope they get lost over the summer. The air feels so good on my bare legs. Ma says we can’t go barefoot yet and the ground really is too cold, but the mud has dried up pretty well.

I visited Grammy yesterday and she had her parlor rug out on the line and had just beaten it with some kind of rug-beater. She looked pretty worn out and told me she was glad that was over with and now she had to take down all the curtains and wash the winter smut off them. She says the wood stove really smokes them up and she can’t wait until they are washed and starched and ironed and then she will hang them once she gets all the windows washed. I told her it seemed like a lot of work, but she told me it made her feel good to see everything sparkling and clean. My Grammy is a tiny woman, but boy she works hard. She told me it wouldn’t be too long before she needed me to mow the lawn the way the grass was coming along.  She has a push mower and her side lawn is a hill, so it takes me quite awhile to get it all done nicely.

Ma is pleased that we can hang the wash out again on the clothesline that reaches from one tree to another at the edge of the woods.  They smell so clean once the wind whips through them. It won’t be too long now before Ma starts looking in a little patch of grass to see if her Mayflowers have started. Those are her favorite flowers and every year, once they have blossomed, she puts a water glass in the middle of the table and plops a few in there to brighten up the kitchen. She leaves most of them outside because she says that is where they belong.

One day last year I went fishing on my favorite rock past Wagner’s camp.  On the way there were yellow and pink ladyslippers. They are so pretty. I told Ma when I got home and she said, oh, no you didn’t pick any, did you? I said no and she told me never , ever pick them as they are the prettiest right where they grow. She said if I pick them, they might not grow again.  Ma is part Native American and she is very strict about nature and flowers.  She did show us what she called Indian Tobacco once. It is a white stemmy looking plant and she broke off a piece on top and chewed it and gave Curt and me a little to chew. It didn’t taste bad, but I didn’t want it in my mouth very long. Curt just pretended he was spitting chewing tobacco like one of Dad’s friends!

I just remembered it won’t be long before Ma boils down the poplar bark again and makes us take a tablespoon or more of that awful tasting stuff. I am not going to remind her.

Dad already has his supplies handy for tonight’s smelt run. This time of  year it gets pretty loud and noisy at the brooks where the smelts run. There is a brook right across the road from our house and they come up there. Oh, the cars that come and line the road just as it gets dark. All the people, mostly men, try to get the best spot and they shine their flashlights and jostle others around. I think Roland and Rex might go once in awhile, but Ma won’t let me near there. She says it is no fit place for a girl and the language is awful. Well it is loud enough so I have heard plenty right from my bed.

Dad says there are always a few who drink too many beers, especially on a Saturday night, and spoil it for everyone. I remember one night he came home very disgusted because the smelt had just begun to come up the brook and someone lost his balance and fell into the water. That was the end of smelting for that night!  Ma said probably the ground was still soft from the spring weather and Dad said, no, the man was full of beer. Ma hushed him and told him he could go the next night and get a mess of smelts for us.

There is a limit on how many smelts you can dip. Dad has his pail, his flashlight and net and he usually can get his limit. Once in awhile, a game warden will come along, ask a few questions and look for someone who has too many. One man poured some smelts down his waders. Well, the game warden got him in a hurry. No need for waders unless the man thought he was going to chase the smelts back into Twitchell Pond! At least, that is what Dad said the next morning.

Cleaning the smelts can be a slow job, but Dad showed me how so I helped Ma clean them because I knew how nice she cooks them. She gets the grease in the frying pan real hot, rolls the smelts in corn meal and pops them in there. Oh, they are so crispy and they have a little sweet taste to them that other fish do not.  I just love them.

Well, if Dad gets some tonight, it won’t take me long tomorrow morning to help clean them!  Spring is such a nice season. I am not crazy about the cleaning part, but cleaning smelts has a nice ending to it!!!!

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