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Busy Bees by the Jake

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Daily Note

Every day, a photograph, a poem. Two memories today.

First, from my Daily Create post:

I remember my grandma’s house in rural North Dakota in the late 1950s— the red hand pump at the kitchen sink fascinated me. The only indoor plumbing was that hand pump. 1950s!
I think in the 1960s my uncle’s installed a “water closet” that only Grampa and Gramma could use; the rest of us still used the outhouse. The one by the hives my Grandpa kept.
As a city kid, I still thought milk came from a bottle delivered to our door.

Second, about the “water closet”– the one outside:

In the 1950s at Grampa’s home in rural North Dakota, the way to the only bathroom was to pass Grampa’s beehives, which were always filled with working bees to both pollinate and for the honey, which Grandma sold, driving first in wagons and then in cars to local gatherings or neighboring farmhouses to those who ordered it from Grandma.

So, I had to pass by the bees to get to the outhouse way in the back by the fields. I just can’t imagine doing this in the winter, but they did, until about 1960, as indicated in the first quote.

Mom always had to encourage me to just keep walking along the path that passed the hives because I was no bother to their working, busy bees that they were.

I did not walk slowly.

And I took the long way back– off to the left away from the hives through the tall prairie grass back to the back of the house where we played– or walked off further away to play on the flatbed trailer that was the “float” in the August Douglas Picnic parades. It was parked in the field next to the one that was plowed, and we played there out of site and out of mind and in trouble for doing so.

And one other thing I did not understand until I visited the Plymouth Living Museum near Boston, MA with my brother’s family.

First, the thing I never understood was when I shared with my mom that we were naming our second son, Jacob.

And she, of Scottish decent, said, “But they will call him Jake.”

I asked what she meant, but true to her not wanting to be negative, she simply replied, “Never mind.”

But at the museum my niece, after noticing the lack of “bathrooms” in the dirt floor one-room 1627 Pilgrim homes, asked, “But where do people go to the bathroom?”

To which the character just looked at her, not knowing that word– “bathroom.”

To which my niece replied, “You know– you eat and it goes through you and…”

And the character laughed, pointing over his shoulder to the woods, “We just go out to the jake.”

So, now I know why mom said to me, “But they will call him jake”– because in her Scottish culture, from her dad, that’s what they called their outhouse.

Oh boy.

Luckily in the 1970s and onward during Jake’s lifetime, that usage was no longer in play.

Busy Bees

Mom says “Just walk on through…
They’re too busy to bother you.”
as I hesitate at the buzzz buzzing
while passing Grampa’s beehives
humming away on a summer day
on my way to the “jake,”
the way I must take
to the outhouse out back
1950s plumbing we lacked.

Sheri Edwards
080222 216.365.22
old farmhouse surrounded by dried grass
You can’t even see the “jake,”
it’s so far away from the house…

1251 days of posts in a row

Note: More words for outhouse and jake at wordhippo

Sheri Edwards View All

Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart

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