My mind was jumping from fire ants to washing clothes the other morning as I walked along Wildcat Boulevard. I am not sure why I think of these things, but I do read magazines, newspapers, and lots of items on the internet. These articles trigger my memory.

My mind was jumping from fire ants to washing clothes the other morning as I walked along Wildcat Boulevard. I am not sure why I think of these things, but I do read magazines, newspapers, and lots of items on the internet. These articles trigger my memory.

Although there are none known today, there have been populations of fire ants in Missouri. Some were in the bootheel region and thought to have been brought to Missouri in hay from Florida. They were exterminated. I am afraid of fire ants and killer bees.

For some reason, I began thinking about how hard my mother had to work to wash clothes when I was a kid. She had to pump the water, heat it in a big copper kettle on the cook stove, and carry it into the porch where the washing machine was.

She had a washing machine with a gasoline Maytag engine. The exhaust ran through a flexible steel pipe which ran outdoors through the wall. The Maytag was noisy and made the porch rattle when it ran.

Ma would wash the whites first, then the lights, and lastly the work clothes. After running the clothes in the washing machine, she would put them through a ringer to get the soupy water out. The flattened clothes fell into a square tub of water filled with cold, clean water.

After wringing out the washed clothes from the washing machine, she ran them through the wringer again to get out the rinse water. Then she had to lug the wet and full clothes basket outside and hang everything on the clothes line.

Some pieces of the laundry needed to be starched. She made up a batch of starch in an old wash pan. The items, usually doilies, were dipped in the starch after they had been washed and rinsed. They had to be laid carefully and sometimes pinned down so they dried properly.

When all the washing and rinsing was done, my mother would put the water to use again by mopping the porch floor, rinsing off the outside steps, or scrubbing the outhouse.

Before we got electricity, she would have to heat up the sad irons on the cook stove and iron the clothes that needed ironing. She had irons with detachable handles. That way she could keep an iron heating on the stove when she used the other to press a piece of clothing.

Improving her washing workload was one of the first things we did after we moved to a farm with electricity. My parents put an electric motor on the washing machine and bought an electric iron. In time, we had water in the house, a clothes dryer, and a hot water heater.

Today, we have “automatic” washing machines hooked up to our water system. We have dryers, although I still hang most of our clothes on the line.

I do not recall when clothes were washed on a scrub board, but that would have been even more complicated and more work.

Take a walk, think how convenient washing clothes is today, avoid fire ants and killer bees, use those signal lights, watch for pedestrians, and see what you notice while passing along Wildcat Boulevard.

 Russell Hively writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.