Wednesday, June 08, 2005

That Outfit Could Kill You


Freshly Mulched Sweet Pepper & Lettuce Leaf Basil Seedlings

How did those pioneer women do it? Apart from Calamity Jane (who I'm not even sure would be considered a pioneer), women in early 20th century rural America did not wear pants. They wore dresses. Take Little House On The Prairie for example. Did Ma ever do anything in a pair of overalls? Of course not. Those women cooked, cleaned, milked the cow, planted the garden, butchered the hog, mended the fence, helped build the barn, took care of the children, and fought off Indians--all while wearing a dress.

Life back then was not easy. Pioneer women were hard-working and tough, and they often died in childbirth. They were truly remarkable. But the bravest thing any of those women ever did was step into that dress each morning. And how do I know this? Because I am sitting here at three-thirty in the afternoon, groggy and completely discombobulated after a two-and-a-half-hour, totally unscheduled nap. My day has been shot to hell. Why? Because this morning I put on a dress.

My usual farm attire is some sort of shirt and a pair of denim overalls. When the weather is warm, I might put on shorty overalls, but there are a lot of things around a farm you really shouldn't do in shorts. In this heat and humidity, though, I find the mere thought of heavy overalls unbearable. And so I switch to dresses--sleeveless cotton jumpers with a tee-shirt underneath. They are comfortable, easy to work in, and are slightly cooler than pants. If there is any wind, you can lift the skirt a little and enjoy a refreshing breeze on your sweaty legs.

So there I was, in my comfortable dress, sweating profusely as I stood in the blazing sun mulching tomatoes and peppers with a cart full of sheep manure I'd mucked out of the barn. This is hot, tiring work, but it also very rewarding because you know you are taking care of so many things at once: the barn gets a little cleaner, the plants get fertilized, the garden soil is improved, and potential weeds are smothered. The day was going well, and I was feeling good. I would be finished soon, and then I could hide in the house for a while and start working on that post about curry dip.

When the cart was nearly empty, I felt a sudden, unmistakable, piercing stab--on my butt. Stung! Ouch! Without thinking, I twisted around and started batting my hand at the back of my dress, knowing a wasp had flown up it. This was a very, very bad idea--and I should have remembered that from the last time I did it. Stung again! OUCH! Then a non-stop Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! interspersed with a few choice words as the poison spread, the excruciating pain intensified, and I staggered into the house.

Fortunately I am not allergic to wasp stings. And I sort of remembered what to do:
Throw down hat, gloves, and sunglasses. Tear off dress so you can get a good look at your rapidly reddening rear end in the full-length mirror. Gulp down two antihistamines (also known as sleeping pills) and a handful of herbal anti-inflammatories to keep down the swelling and itching. Three sprays of
King Bio Bug Away under the tongue. Break open two of those creepy looking Sting-Kill vials of bright green liquid and apply them to the stings to ease the pain. Wonder when or how or if you will ever be able to sit down again. Do a web search on "wasp sting" and "treatment." Find a lot of talk about agonizing death. Find a website called ehow ("Clear Instructions On How To Do Just About Everything") offering some bizarre home remedies and a few helpful ideas, like ice. Sprawl on the couch with a napkin-swaddled ice pack, gingerly switching it back and forth from one tender cheek to the other.

Lie there suffering, trying not to get pissed off and thinking about the ehow site. Wondering if maybe there really is a stinger still in there. And so just to be sure (even though it doesn't make sense since you were stung twice), stand with backside to the mirror and "scrape the skin with a dull butter knife" (thus effectively removing all the green pain medicine you just applied.) Contemplate other suggested remedies. Figure what the hell, and decide to administer one more treatment (again with backside to the mirror)--all the while not believing that you are actually rubbing a fresh clove of garlic on your butt.

Realize the only thing left to do is go back outside (sans dress), pick a lot of strawberries, and proceed to self-medicate by inhaling a large bowl of sliced strawberries and French vanilla ice cream in roughly six seconds. Collapse in a sugar- and sleeping pill-induced stupor on couch.

Wake up two and a half hours later, noting with satisfaction that pain is bearable and redness and swelling have gone down considerably. Assume it must have been the ice cream and strawberries. Contemplate a second dose. Stumble over to computer and begin to type.

Maybe I'll get to get to the curry dip tomorrow.

23 comments:

  1. Yes! The Susan I used to know, or the Farmgirl Susan that is more fabulous than the person I really didn't know, is back! I loved your other writings and I can finally read more. You're so funny and endearing I have officially added "Visit Farmgirl for a week" to my list of things I have to do in this lifetime along with the Pyramids, Niagra Falls and the Great Wall of China. Love you, the sheep and your new blog. Keep it up for the rest of us city folk who think that the Target garden center is "rural."

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  2. I found you because you commented on my blog--Tigers and Strawberries--so that is why I am so late, but goodness--is that a story.

    I used to be a farm girl myself, and never wore dresses. Neither did my farm girl Mamma or farm girl Grandma. Except for church, that is, but they only stayed on for church and then off they went! I am not too sure how the pioneer women went about life in dresses, but it is something I have often wondered about. I can't rightly imagine it.

    Though I know a woman who was much more comfortable running about in skirts--she said she could run easier in them to chase down cows and goats and whatnot. Of course, she was Amish and grew up in dresses, so maybe there is a trick to it that those of us who grew up in jeans and overalls just don't know from.

    Great post...I am adding a link to you on my blog, btw.

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  3. Farmgirl-

    Your stinging tale (tail) has put a smile upon my face this morning as I envisioned your plight and remembered my own harrowing wasp experiences.

    Thank you for sharing that with such good humor and I would've prescribed at least two doses of strawberries & ice cream!

    Your Farmgirl blog is charming and inspirational Susan and I'm adding a link to it from our blog.

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  4. just catching up on all the early stuff here and noticed mrs white's comment...there are "other" writings of yours out there? where??? my curiousity is piqued about yur notFood life (if notFood can be said to be living)

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  5. I have never been stung by a bee and I hope I shall never experience it. I am sure it is great pain and I do not envy you.

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  6. Susan,
    Yours is the only site like this I take the time to look at, and I love it! The story of the wasp, albeit painful to you at the time, comes across as absolutely hilarious to your faithful readers. So while I extend my condolances for your injury, thank you for my best laugh of the day!
    Patricia

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  7. That must be why those dresses always dragged the ground. No ankle flirting for the pioneers!

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  8. LOL This story (not your pain) made my day. I'm linking you, hope you don't mind!

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  9. Ha Ha! you're so good at writing, you should really consider writing a book! "short stories from rural Missouri"... I'd buy one in a flash! keep on posting, Farmgirl!

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  10. Wowie! That's one heck of a day! I'm SURE it was the strawberries & ice cream that made it all better!

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  11. Maybe you were really channeling Laura Ingalls Wilder, a fellow Missouri farmgirl? I used to want to be her so much. Now I can pretend by reading your posts. So glad I found you, Susan!

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  12. God, I almost died from that!!

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  13. Yup! I can relate to that! September wasp gave me two stings on my leg under my dress. I felt a "tickle" and promptly scratched it. I sure did "tick" him off!

    I'm from the Groff family of Lancaster County, PA (we're PA Dutch). I mostly wear the long skirts to work in around the ranch/farm here. I do prefer them to pants which seem binding, scratchy, and just plain irritating.

    Anyway, next time you DO get a sting, wash with warm water and soap (some of the pain will leave) then put on a thick mixture of baking soda & vinegar and let it dry.

    And remember, wasps keep their stingers with them--Bees stick their stingers in you and once they lose their stingers (usually 1 sting), they die.

    Happy Trails from the Rocky Mountains!

    Sunny
    http://sunnysgardengate.spaces.live.com/

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  14. So I'm late with yet another post here. But thanks to you I added the link for ehow to my blog.. so word will get around. I am allergic to stings.. Mostly swell up wherever I am stung but I appreciate this link for any future stings that could take place.. hopefully not on my bum.. thanks for the tips..

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  15. i have to say from experience that milking a cow is a lot easier in a dress. but me, i am a skirt and dress wearer, always have been. i own overalls and wear them but find them uncomfortable.

    however i have ever been wasp-stung in a dress. might turn me off them forever. friend, you need a pair of bloomers! ;-)

    tabitha

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  16. I am so sorry but I am laughing my head off here!

    You paint such a colourful picture with your use of words, I love it.

    Go set up some nice beer traps to drown offending wasps, oh and you absolutly MUST have another dose of strawberry icecream!

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  17. My sister has been reading your site for a while and she loves it. She will usually send me a link with some pics. Today I have been reading you for a couple hours. (Totally not in working mode..and in the office alone today and been a long week...decided I deserve it). You are absolutely amazing! Your stories make me laugh and even have me tearing up. Thank you for sharing!

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  18. My husband came in when I laughed out loud at rubbing garlic on your butt and asked me what was so funny, I said he wouldn't understand as he has never worn a dress. AQt least I think he hasn't....

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  19. My Grandma Allen always wore dresses while she cooked, beheaded chickens, slopped the hogs and cleaned house. She also wore high heels. Go figure. When she went out to feed the pigs she would put on those clear rubber booty things over her heels - the ones with the little button thingie on the side. I was six and followed her everywhere.

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  20. Howdy, howdy! What a fab blog - absolutely L-U-V the pix, pups, other critters, and am JUST beginning to delve into the other corners and plan to poke around much more as time permits (housework, what housework? - LOL!) You are a true Renaissance woman >> I much admire & applaud your exhausting efforts - (I'm tired out just reading, but I'm old and arthritic - haha!)

    Do have to comment on the "died in childbirth" bit. As an 18th c. living historian and AWI re-enactor, we are alert to the "museum myths and Hollywood History" we often hear. We even hear them perpetutated by well-meaning museum docents and tour guides from time to time. The sad state of history education in our schools makes us cry...

    Although the death rate in childbirth certainly exceeded what we have today, it isn't true that this was a major cause of death. A much larger cause of death was contagious disease and death from injury that we can easily treat nowadays. Infant mortality from childhood diseases skewed the longevity stats so that the average age was quite low giving the false impression that "everyone died by 35." Though they led hard lives, were much older looking because of all the sun/outdoor work, there certainly were plenty of older folks. John Adams died at 90, Ben Franklin at 84! Anyway, that's off track.

    God bless you and yer li'l farm. I'm a big dog lover myself. We have a lab mix, guardian of our home and family 8-p

    See ya again! ..gotta go march in the Governor's Inaugural Parade - Yee-Haw! (glad you're farming - need more of that - we just grow kids and homeschool :)

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  21. OMG completely LMAO!!!! You are a very good writer, actually you remind me of Erma Bombeck. I've been stung myself a few times by wasps so I feel your pain. Thank you for the wonderful story!

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  22. too funny! i could hardly finish reading the article, i was laughing so hard! sorry about the stings, but thanks for sharing the good laugh with us...love your site, by the way.

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