Cheney Free Press -



Chilly, slippery adventures kill time without power, take us back to the olden days

Of Cabbages and Kings


My name is Lillie. My friend is Sue. She is visiting me from her home in Nebraska. We sat at the kitchen table, my friend and I, watching the afternoon slide by as its hours and minutes faded into nothing.

Like many others in the area, our electricity had been tangled by an angry wind crashing into cars, uprooting trees, smashing windows and roofs of wounded houses. Crews were working frantically to restore the power. We’d have to be patient.

Sue shrugged her shoulders. “I expected to do my laundry today. Maybe I should go down to the creek and scrub my clothes on a rock like they used to do in the old days. Hey, let’s try it. It’ll be fun!” She was already gathering up her laundry and headed for the door. “Bring along a couple of bars of hand soap, Lillie.”

I caught up with her and there we were, two women trying to keep our wet, slippery hand soap from floating away in the current of the little creek.

My first attempt at scrubbing a stain from a blouse ended in disaster. “Uh oh, this rock is too rough. I’ve torn a hole in the sleeve.”

Sue shrugged. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it. Try these.” She tossed me a pair of jeans.

I was sloshing the jeans around in the water when I heard her scream. I turned around, lost my balance and sat without ceremony in the cold water up to my elbows.

“It’s a snake, Lillie. A snake!”

Sue had another scream ready, “I tell you, it’s a snake. I see it. A snake!”

I staggered to my feet, dripping suds and mud, and caught a glimpse of the snake. “That’s a water snake, Sue. He’s harmless.”

“Not with me, he isn’t. I’m getting out of here.” She climbed clumsily to dry land. “Come on, let’s get back to the house.”

I grabbed some of her laundry from the water, but abandoned my bar of soap as it floated away. I came in second getting back to my own home.

Inside, as both of us were dripping on newspapers spread on the floor I heard her say, “What we need is a good bath.”

I had to tell her, “You know, Sue, since I live on a farm, I have a well pump. And I like it, but it doesn’t work without electricity.”

Sue shivered a bit, “Then, then, what did folks do in the-the old days?”

I tried to smile, “They heated water on the stove for the washtub and took turns having a bath.”

Sue repeated, “A washtub.”

I tried to smile again, “Look, Sue, it’s not as bad as you may think. I’ve a couple of jugs of water saved for a dilemma like this. You take one and I’ll take the other.

“But they’re not heated.”

“No, and neither was the creek. You can use the bathroom and I’ll take the kitchen. Here’s your jug.” I called after her, “Don’t try to run any water from the faucet in there.”

We worked through our little difficulty as I knew we would.

There was another night of candles and quiet, a sad goodbye as Sue boarded the airplane and then I stepped into my house.

I saw lights shining in every room. I heard my refrigerator and freezer humming. A motor out at the pump house sang, “We’re back to work. We’re back to work!” Do you suppose I could teach it to catch two runaway bars of soap?

Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author. She can be reached at


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