Back in the early spring, Tink had spent several days of hard labor cutting up fallen trees and piling limbs into six bunches. Alternate bouts of rain, droughts and ice have taken their toll on our family of trees. It’s a continuous clean-up on the Rondarosa.
“Before you leave to go on location, you have to burn those piles,” I said. “Otherwise, the seasonal burning ban will happen and we won’t be able to burn until fall.”
He nodded. “I promise.” But then Hollywood interrupted in only the way it can. The Writers Guild was threatening to strike so the studio called Tink with an urgent request.
“We’re trying to get ahead of this possible strike. Could you come two weeks early?”
That’s how I wound up with six big brush piles to burn. Our neighbors, Doug and Jon, came on a Saturday to help me get started. Jon watched the fire on the backside to make sure that the barn and hay wouldn’t grab a cinder and fire away.
Doug helped me start the fires in the front pasture then, once under control, he left. For hours, I minded the fires — with a water hose close by — dragging limbs and poking at the stacks. Driving the tractor, I used the bucket to push the limbs together and keep the fires going. I was on and off the tractor, grabbing hot limbs with gloved hands and throwing them into the center of the pile. It was hard, hard work.
When the day ended, I was as tired as I have ever been and absolutely filthy with red Georgia clay and dark gray ash covering me from head to toe. The muddy dirt had infiltrated through my shoes and socks to stain my feet and my face did not have one freckle of clean on it anywhere. Wearily, I sank down on the steps of the back porch and took a photo to send my husband. In a moment, he was calling to video chat.
For seconds as he looked at my straggled ponytail and the whites of my eyes, he could only laugh. It is a sign of great love that a man, who cherishes soap and water as he does, thought I was still the prettiest woman ever.
“Oh, my hard working baby,” he said. “You’re still beautiful.”
“Wait until you see my feet. I think I may have to throw these jeans away. I don’t know that they’ll come clean of mud.”
My brother-in-law, Rodney, often drags himself in from the hay field or pasture with clothes so muddy that Louise will have to soak them in the washing machine for two days. We have a front load washer, though, so there is no soaking with those machines. But I ran the clothes through the wash three times until finally they were wearable again.
A few days later, though, I wondered why I had gone to the trouble. I order everything possible from Nordstrom. They ship free, returns are free and there’s no time crunch on returns. Since we live in the country, it’s much easier than driving into town. I was on the Nordstrom site to order when I accidentally ran across — now get ready for this — a pair of men’s jeans caked in red mud. Just like Rodney’s and just like the ones I dirtied up while burning brush.
I stared. I blinked. I refreshed my screen. And still there they were — expensive, muddy jeans selling for as much as some washing machines. People are actually paying to get what we are working to get rid of — mud-caked jeans.
If you want a pair from Nordstrom, though, you’re out of luck. They sold out. But don’t despair because I know where you can get a pair of equal beauty.
All it’ll cost you is a day’s work and sweat on the Rondarosa.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of Mark My Words – A Memoir of Mama. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.