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By Staff | Oct 28, 2011

Let’s face it. There are certain things that only farm families do. And we do them without even thinking.

I’m not talking about the usual cliched things, like the tried and true “farmer’s blow” (what you do when you don’t have a tissue or handkerchief handy. You just give it back to Mother Nature in a forced and less than flattering manner. I’m certain that Emily Dickinson would not have approved.)

And I’m sure that only an Iowa farm family would need to stop and buy a 20-ounce bottle of pop on the way home from work because they need another lamb bottle in the sheep barn during lambing season.

But the farm family washing machine is a true wonder. Oh, it’s not any different than anyone else’s washing machines – it’s what’s in them that could be the basis of a good Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Scary things go in, scary things come out kind of like feeding babies.

My most menacing story of opening the washing machine lid was when I peered in to put the next load in, and a very frightened mouse was standing in the drum, probably doing disgusting mouse things in there.

I’m not sure which of us was more startled, but you can be assured that it had all the makings of an FBI stand-off for a few minutes. Living in an older farm house makes farm wives capable of handling a mouse trap, even with dead mice dangling from the end of them.

I may have passed out, because I can’t remember actually putting the mouse trap into the machine, but I did, and the mouse was caught and carried outside.

I may have had to repair to the recliner with an ice pack on my head and a heart monitor on for the rest of the evening following such a traumatic event.

Farm moms have enough clothes to wash, too. There are work clothes for the white collar worker(s) of the family, which must be kept separate from the greasy, dirt-and-manure-covered clothes of the farm laborers.

And – a show of hands here – how many of you ladies enjoy handling clothes that your guys have been wearing when they are spraying? It’s the only other brand of “dirty” that might require a mask and long tongs to get them from the pile to the washer, aside from the clothes that came right from the farrowing house on power washing day, or on diaper washing day. Yeesh.

On occasion, the farm wife will pick up something that is laying on the floor, unsure of whether it needs to be laundered.

I have to say that a farm mom may be the only one bold enough to pick up a pair of compression shorts and give them a whiff to decide if they go in the wash pile.

We’ve probably smelled worse things than that out here.

I have washed a lot of filthy clothes in our machine, even some that have seen the business end of a garden hose before they went in.

Our foreign exchange daughter from Germany saw one of our sons come into the kitchen one day, fresh from the hay field, sweaty and very dirty from head to toe.

She looked at him quietly for a couple of minutes, sizing up his degree of filthiness and seeing that he didn’t even seem to notice it, and then said, “My mother gets mad at my brothers for getting so dirty, but my mother does not know what being dirty really means!”

And recently I was visiting with a friend who was telling someone else how disgusting it is to wash handkerchiefs.

She asked incredulously, “You can just throw it away with a tissue, why would you want all of that in your washing machine?”

I may be incriminating myself here to the guy who does some of the repair work on our washer, but I told her that our washing machine has washed a sea of used red handkerchiefs, grease- and manure-covered jeans and shirts, lamb’s tails, paint sticks (we’re so not even going there today), and lots of corn.

She had that same look that I had when I saw the mouse in the washing machine so I waited to get the smelling salts until after I caught her on the way down.

Good thing she didn’t marry a farmer. It’s not for weenies, that’s for sure.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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