|Looking to the bottom (west) end of the garden.|
The back porch was torn down, as I mentioned in Part 1. On the back porch was the washing machine... the old-fashioned kind with a wringer to put the clothes through to remove the excess water. No spin cycle, and no hot water. And on the post nearest the steps, Mama kept her clothespin bag for hanging up the clothes - though sometimes it was magically transformed into a nest for a mama wren with her new family.
As I said in an earlier entry, the back door was locked with a padlock when we weren't at home, and the key was kept hanging on a nail just next to the window. (The front door was locked by a hook and eye holding the screen door closed.) I do remember sitting there on the edge of the back porch, with my legs dangling over the side, eating huge slices of watermelon or double-dipped cones of ice cream to celebrate the Fourth of July. Also on the back porch, just above the steps, was a rifle, kept there for easy access so Mama could come to the rescue in case any of us barefoot children came across poisonous snakes or any other vicious creatures.
Once after supper, my brother and I thought we could get away with playing in the mud in the garden. The earth was rich and moist, and when it rained, the bottom end of the garden was a wonderful place to sink our toes. We'd work our feet into the ground until we were up to our knees in rich black mud. Mama didn't think it was a good idea to do that because of the danger of ringworm (not actually a worm, but a fungus), but we were hard-headed and thought we could get cleaned up before she noticed. The plan was that he would wash off first while I hid. Then when he gave the signal, I'd come out and wash off, and our parents would be none the wiser.
So to wait, I ducked under a big white rose bush that wasn't too close to the house. I looked down to see just how muddy** I was, and lo and behold! right about a foot away there was a copperhead lying there in a heap. I froze in fear. We'd all been taught from a very young age to watch out for copperheads and to recognize the cocoa brown hourglass pattern. I knew I was looking at a poisonous snake that was close enough to bite me if it wanted to. I stood there paralyzed for what seemed like ages, then finally mustered my courage and leapt away and ran like the dickens, shouting for Mama. She heard me yelling and came with the rifle, ridding the place of one more threat to her babies.
I can't remember whether I was punished for playing in the mud, but I can imagine that Mama was so relieved that I wasn't snakebitten that she just let it go.
**Ever wonder where the name "Muddy" came from? :D