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Another Day in the Country

Wipe your feet

© Another Day in the Country

Living in this (feels like) pretty civilized era of countrified existence, I’d almost forgotten about the admonishment I used to hear regularly from my Grandma year around.

“Wipe your feet!” she’d say.

And she was serious.

There was a mud scraper beside the back door. There were old tag rugs at the doors. We even had sidewalks — short but adequate — from the gate to the door.

With all those precautions, the dirt carried from the yard into the house was a daunting amount.

“Did you wipe your feet?” Gramm would ask every grandchild who entered her domain.

It used to be said of my Grandma Ehrhrardt that “you could eat off of her floors,” she was so clean.

This was not just the kitchen floor either — the same went for the front and back porch floors. That lady was a cleaning dynamo.

So much so that 60 years later when a great granddaughter proved to be fanatical about how tidy she kept her bedroom, we called her “Little Leah,” after an ancestor she’d never met.

My memories of Gramm date back to the days before she had running water in the house — or electricity.

She had three tools for keeping her floor clean — a broom, a mop and a bucket of water.

Her son, my father, grew up with a similar bent — neatness!

He carried water, soap and towels in the trunk of his car so he could wash his hands anywhere. He had overshoes that actually went on OVER shoes to keep his shoes clean.

I think I’m lucky to have grown up in a household where things were tidy — although as a kid I used to complain about it.

As I look back on it, I’m surprised they didn’t make everyone take off their shoes when they came in the door.

Grandpa used to. Out on the porch, before he came into the house at night.

The rest of us pretty much just wiped our feet, carefully.

When Jana chose a classmate from Korea as her boyfriend, she was introduced to the “no shoes in the house” rule.

If Richard’s parents had their way it would also have been “no American girl,” in the house, either; but they didn’t. So Jana quickly learned not to “make waves” and carefully removed her shoes and left them at the door along with 20 other shoes — that’s a slight exaggeration, but not all that far off in the count.

Removing shoes at the door became a “rule” in the household when Jana and Richard got married and it continued, more or less, when they moved into my house when I came to live in Kansas on a millennial lark in 2000.

I sort of ignored the “shoes off at the door” rule when I visited them. Partly because I wasn’t there all that long, it was summer when I was often barefoot, and I didn’t think about it because it was, after all, my house that they were living in.

When I started appearing more often and staying for longer periods of time, I really disliked stumbling over shoes in front of the door.

“Could you guys put your shoes somewhere besides in front of the door?” I queried one day.

“Could you take your shoes off when you come in?” my daughter countered.

I tried. They tried piling shoes somewhere else. I tried remembering to ditch my shoes; but kept forgetting. Little Leah would mop the floor the minute she came home from work.

Finally I played the age card.

“I’m OLD! This no shoes in the house rule is hard for me,” I said. “I’m constantly running in and out. I lose my shoes in the heap by the door. It’s hard to take them off and on in the winter. I promise I’ll WIPE MY FEET!”

So, I don’t fuss about the pile of shoes by the door and they are tolerant about the shoes I forget are on my feet.

Recently I’ve been talking to my chickens, saying, “I wish you guys would wipe your feet!”

I can’t insist they take off their shoes when entering the nest boxes for obvious reasons. (No. 1 it’s THEIR house.)

But I wish they wouldn’t track mud into the nest or wipe their feet on another hen’s eggs!

Usually, I’m praising those lovely hens of mine not only for how many eggs they lay every day but also that they keep those eggs so clean. Most of the time the eggs are nestled down into the fresh hay, “clean as a whistle” — which was another phrase from my grandma.

But recently, someone’s tracking in mud, on another day in the country.

Ah, well, that means it’s spring.

Last modified April 7, 2021

 

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