Muddy Boots

By  | April 27, 2009 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Posts by M. Boilard

Only a child can appreciate the unique quality of the muck and mire produced by the combination of April rains and receding frosts. April showers bring May flowers, but for me, they also bring fond memories of mud and rubber boots.

As children, we did not have sidewalks or neighbourhood parks. Our playground was farm fields and deep, beautiful ditches that rushed with spring thaws and rains. To this day, a good ditch makes my heart pound with childish delight, although I stopped trying to span them long ago as they seem so much wider today.

The ploughed fields around our home would beckon us mercilessly in spring with their water filled furrows and their treacherous sticky terrain. Oft-times we would huddle secretly behind the house with short sticks, hastily prying clumps of mud from our misshapen boots; worried that Mom would see them before we had time to ‘de-glob’ them of their added weight. Mom learned to hate mud, as it was all around us.

I recall one Saturday morning in April long ago, when Mom found my older sister and I puzzling quietly in the living room. Despite being told to go outside, we girls of 10 and 11 years felt that our two younger siblings were quite capable of watching themselves. Our little sister and brother of 6 and 4 years respectively, thoroughly enjoyed a good damp day; we two did not.

“Where are your brother and sister?” Mom asked sternly with that fists-on-hips stance all mothers know.

Our nonchalant, shoulder shrugging and general lack of interest in their whereabouts only hardened the look on her face. Without further ado, we were sent out to find them … as if we were their keepers.

Their trikes still in the garage, the kids were found neither in the front nor the back yard. Begrudgingly, we walked up the gravel drive to the neighbour’s barn and searched their usual play areas. With nowhere else to look, we simply stopped and quietly listened for clues.

Tense, hushed voices were heard on the quiet morning air.

“Man…push up! Push up with your hands!” one encouraged.

“I can’t…I’m stuck! I’m sinking!” another responded woefully

My older sister and I followed the voices to the Great Hedge. The Great Hedge was a living fence that spanned three properties, running parallel and about 20 meters back from the highway, breaking only for two driveways, ours and the neighbour’s. The tilled area on the other side of that barrier was forbidden land, as it brought us closer to the road.

It was on that forbidden side where we found our two stray siblings. Little sister was supporting herself solely on her right leg with her slippery, left boot clutched with both hands tight to her coat ….the boot was massive with mud. Her left, socked foot was resting just above her right knee…stork fashion. The other boot was still on the implanted foot; mud half way to its rim.

“Man… push up!” She hissed her order again to her partner in crime.

Her cohort, who in play mode was always known to her as ‘Man’, was three meters off to her right with both little feet hopelessly buried in mud. He had obviously lost his balance when trying to move his mired feet for he had fallen forward with both of his hands disappearing in the quagmire, which had crept halfway up to his elbows. His face was red with exertion; his mouth open in one of his famous voiceless cries. His little butt wiggled up and down … up and down … trying hard to propel himself back into a standing position. Unfortunately, his hands could not leave the mud, lest he fall flat out and face down in the mud.

As two sisters doing the job they were sent out to do, we did it. In unison, we gasped with disbelief and cried loudly; “You guys are in trouble…we’re telling!”

Little brother’s silent scream finally broke free and pierced the air, as little sister the stork, wavered precariously in turning to see us run to the house to report their whereabouts.

Mom, seeing her two children mired helplessly in a sea of mud, seemed to pause momentarily to look skyward for composure; she then became energized.

“Stay there!” she cried with her arms stretched out to her two lost, little souls.

As children, we never underestimated our mother in that energized state. No matter what our dilemma, she was always there with ingenuity to guide her. She hurried into the garage and dragged out three long planks and two large pieces of cardboard. Placing each piece end for end, she constructed a road out onto the mud until she was within reaching distance of little sister.

Grabbing the hapless boot out of little sister’s hands, she flung it wildly backwards toward shore, but its weight combined with her poor aim put it instead, upright, far beyond anyone’s reach. She then pulled the little girl free of the mud and her remaining boot. She carried little sister to safety, assuring the crying little boy as she retreated;

“I’ll be right back…don’t move!”

She plopped little sister beside us and back to the garage she went, retrieving two rough and oil-stained pieces of plywood that Pop used for under the car. These gave her just enough manoeuvring room to haul in her second child. When both children were safe, she methodically retrieved three boots and all construction items. Unfortunately, that first, flying boot was irretrievable due to insufficient roadway material. It remained like a beacon in a glossy, brown sea, alone for two weeks; warning all to stay away lest the same fate befall them.

My older sister and I watched and waited for my mother’s wrath to spill out of her, but it never came. The two crying babes were sent into the basement, so that she could strip them down to their underwear and scour them free of all remnants of their muddy nightmare. From our vantage point we could hear her inside, laughing softly as they recounted their story of how our brother strayed into the mud to recover his rubber ball and how sister braved his same fate to help him.

As for my older sister and I; we were sent back behind the house with three impossibly muddy boots and two short sticks. This was our lesson learned for that day…we were indeed their keepers.

M.B.

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