Friday, August 1, 2014

The Wash House: Bird Fear Begins

I would like to thank the joker that had something sent to me in the mail. What was it? Something from the Auburn Society. How do I know it’s a joke?

Because it is about birds!

Anyone who knows me, knows I am afraid of birds. I have all sorts of reasons, so this is the first installment of a series of posts explaining my trepidation of the beasts.

They swoop at me. Always have. Always will.

It started when I was a little girl and would retrieve my bike from what we called the wash house. This little building stood near that junk pile I wrote about in the post entitled, "Procrastination Pile Removed."

The wash house is pictured below with my now 40-something nephew, Michael, on the three-wheeler. That little shack is where all my fears began.
the wash house: the palace of the birds

We butchered chickens in that wash house. Watching Mom clean out the gizzards was my favorite part. Got to see all the sand the chickens did not eat, and Michael played with the rest of the guts in the pail. 

The wash house contained what us Germans call, in Hutterish dialect, a wosh kassle. In English, it is pronounced voosch case-el, meaning wash kettle. It’s a large cast iron barrel with a chimney pipe. Here it is below after it got moved to the garage.

the chimney for this monster is setting over on the right

We did not heat things in the wosh kassle anymore when I was a kid, but since it did not leak, we would use it to soak the chickens in ice water after they were singed and plucked.

Here I am in the picture below doing just that on a hefty chicken. Behind me is the wosh kassle. Looking at how I am dressed, must have been a chilly day that year. I know, I know. It doesn't look like I am too scared of flying creatures, but these buggers were dead.
me--probably fake plucking to pose for a picture

Some of the windows to the wash house were often left open. The picture of Michael's mom below proves it. This is my sister-in-law Doris (whose wedding I discussed in the blog entitled, "Curlers, a Bra, and an Airplane Ride"). She is scalding the chicken so it can be plucked. See that window in the background by the old gas stove? It’s open! Yes, probably because we were working in there, but it was open when we weren't--trust me. And that stove was always filthy like that too--because of--birds!

Doris scalding a skinny chicken

Take a look back at the picture of the wash house. In front, you'll see some gaps between the boards. So, this little wash house had plenty of places for birds to sneak in. And when I’d go get my bike, guess what? They’d flutter and fly about because I had scared them.

But oh, how they scared me more! My screaming only made it worse.

Sometimes I’d have to wait until Mom was home from the field to get my bike out of there, and I got used to riding my banana seat with bird poop on it. Never paid to wash it. Yes, it was a boy's style bike. Mom insisted that it was built better due to that dumb bar. I hurt my crotch on it a couple times.

my old bike my husband Chris found, still full of bird poop, back in 2011 in dad's garage

But with age came guts, so I’d swing open the wash house door to startle those nasty creatures on purpose and yell, “Get outa here you birds!” Then I’d venture in.

Later, after that shed was torn down and the wosh kassle moved to the garage, I'd employ the same routine as a teenager to get out my 10-speed bike. I earned it one summer by helping scrape and paint our farm house. No, I didn’t paint the high peaks, my sister-in-law did that. I’ll have more about birds and painting in the next post.

Until then, do not send me bird pictures, bird jokes, bird clothing or any bird stuff—unless they are dead!

That reminds me. One time a shoebox ended up on my school desk as an end of the year gift. Inside this box I found a rudimentary casket scene.
I guess the 12-year-old thought it would scare me.

My response? “I don’t mind dead birds, Doug Hague. And since the live ones scare me, this is a great gift.”

The next year, Doug may have given me a stuffed parrot that talked when I shook it. Or, it may have been from Todd Howard--I don't remember! I have received so many fowl gifts throughout the years.

I have considered telling my students I hate dogs so I’d get cool, canine stuff instead of bird crap.


  1. So .....I shall be anxiously awaiting more!

    1. got a rough draft in the making already; glad you liked it

  2. Replies
    1. Dan the Man is probably afraid of birds too--since he's afraid of everything and anything!

  3. Melodie, I wish I grew up on a farm too. You have so many funny stories to share. Keep posting your entertaining tales!

    1. I'm glad I make it sound fun to you, Liz. Never a dull moment on a farm.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.