Saturday, 11 January 2014

Sweeping the Threshold

Susan Higgins had married a boy from her village. Jas had a good job as a cow hand and had to get up early in the morning to let the cows in who had gathered round the dairy and to help with the milking in the afternoons as well. Sue was the last one left at home in her family and she could almost hear the sigh of relief when she walked out of door for the last time. When they got married the farmer offered them the cottage that her own granddad had lived in before he died. Sue could barely remember her granddad now as he had passed on when she was little. Her grandma now lived with her parents. Her Mum confided in her that she was worse than all the kids together as nothing was ever done right in the old ladies eyes as she moaned all the time. When she heard that Sue thought that her Mum would have liked to have her back home again, but those times were passed for she had her own man to look after now.

Jas came home after he had mucked out the dairy and the younger boys had taken the cows back to the paddock. He brought home a pail with his allowance of milk. She took it looked at it and sniffed it and said “I hope we can get a decent amount of butter from this Jas, we are running out”.

“You only have to ask at master’s kitchen door, girl.”

Susan shook her head. She wanted to show that she could manage without knocking on their door all the time. She had already got her garden dug up and growing veggies and there were a few chooks in the run at the back already laying eggs. She loved having her own home. She was proud to be married and being Jas’s wife.

“It’s bath night tonight Jas, so get the tin bath in will you? The copper’s lit so we can both have one.”

Jas’s eyes lit up. He knew what that would mean. Sue would have a bath as well and they would go to bed afterwards and she would smell so sweet and he would sleep really well afterwards when they had fondled each other and talked of babies and the names they would call them when they came along. Susan had already decided on the names if it was boy he would be called James like him and if it were a girl her name would be Jasmine so she could called Jas too.

After the meal was over, Jas brought in the tin bath, Susan turned down the oil lamps and bolted the door and filled the bath that was placed in front of the fire with water from the copper. Their towels were laid in front of the fire to warm up and as usual she had her bath first. When they first got married she had told him to go and make sure the chickens were locked up while she bathed and got out before he returned but now he was allowed to stay. He knew not to say too much as that would come later in bed but he was to fetch the towel for her and wrap it round her and help her out of the bath. Then he would have his bath while she dried off properly and combed and brushed her hair. She would scrub his back and then would disappear upstairs while he emptied the bath and hung it up again outside before locking the doors putting the guard in front of the fire and going to to bed himself. On this night they didn't talk much as there was so much more to do before they fell asleep.

In the morning they were up before six o’clock and she would be down first in the kitchen making porridge and toast. Then off to work he would go and return mid morning after the milking. By then Sue had made the bed, cleaned  the fireplace, churned some of the milk to make butter and swept everything out the door over the stone threshold. Then she grabbed the bucket of ashes and threw them down on the path that led down to the chook house. She checked that Jas had let the chickens out on the way to the dairy and gathered the eggs from the nests and put them in her apron as she walked slowly back to the house.

As she walked in through the door she said to herself. “I expect Grandma used to do everything exactly the same as me.” Then she laughed when she thought about Jas and her in bed last night.


  1. I have always said I was born at least 200 years too late, and reading stories like this makes me realise it is true. Good one!

  2. Our ancestors led such a simple life, and I wonder if it wasn't to their benefit!

  3. Maybe grandma did! Simple pleasures are key aren't they..i could picture the scene and smell the soap..and fun..comfort that is essential too

  4. I agree with Jae Rose! A very well written piece!

  5. the best part she laughed....

  6. Well, Old Egg, could be that was you leaning the Cormac McCarthy way, punctuation-wise--can't blame you one bit--and you got that grand story-telling job done as full and well as ever, and it’s poignant, this seemingly short post...she rules the roost, Sue does. This is how life goes with its polar opposites: it’s mundane but there’s a thrill in pulling it off; it’s hard, but worth it; it’s rushed, but there are lasting moments; there’s sorrow and potential joys… This is how it went then and goes now. Beautiful.