sons and daughters laugh about the shock they experienced the first time I told
them about the galvanized bath tub that hung on the exterior wall of the two-room
house where I once lived. The house stood behind a garage on property owned by
Miss Iva Tucker, one of three employees at the Big Sandy, Texas, post office.|
In his old age, Miss Iva’s father in a two-room house at the back of the Tucker
lot. After her father died, Miss Iva rented three rooms and the only bath in the
main house to various tenants. She slept in the main house, and used the kitchen
in the little house. The small bath room had no tub or shower.
teaching job was in the high school at Big Sandy. Before I moved into the two-room
house, I rented the apartment in the main house. After two months of stretching
my teacher’s salary as far as I could, I realized that I could not afford to pay
$35 per month in rent. The bank in Mt. Vernon had given me only a year to repay
the money I borrowed in order to buy a used car, a purchase I considered a necessity.
My monthly car payment was almost half of my entire take-home pay. When I told
Miss Iva my predicament, she suggested that I move into the little house. She
said that she would charge me $20 per month as rent, which was an affordable sum.
One entered the house through a door that opened into a small kitchen.
Adjacent to the kitchen were the tiny bath room and a bedroom large enough for
a double bed and a chifforobe. When I wanted to take a bath, I stepped outside
and plucked the galvanized wash tub from the side of the house where it usually
hung. After taking the tub inside, I would place it on the kitchen floor in the
narrow space between the kitchen stove and the refrigerator. I heated water in
a tea kettle, poured it into the tub, repeating the process several times. Then
I tempered the boiling water with water from the faucet at the kitchen sink.
After I finished my bath, I had to dip a large pan into the tub, collect the soapy
water, and dump it into the commode. After I had bailed out almost all of the
water, the tub was ready to be dragged outside where I poured the water remaining
on the ground. Then I hung the empty tub on the ten-penny nail that had been driven
into the side of the house.
1996, forty years after I left Big Sandy to accept another teaching position,
I returned to the school, a cracker box building that replaced the stately `two-storey
red brick building where I once taught. I attended a reunion of former students
and teachers. Peggy Roberts, who was in the senior class at Big Sandy the first
year I taught there, stepped away from a group of former classmates gathered in
front of the building in order to speak to me.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Cowser,”
Peggy said. “I remember the year you taught us in senior English.” She paused
for a minute, perhaps to collect her thoughts. “You lived in a little house at
the back of Miss Iva’s property, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I said. “At the
time, I couldn’t afford better accommodations.”
“Oh, you poor man!” Peggy
exclaimed, reaching out to pat me on the shoulder.
Occasionally, I still
see galvanized wash tubs at the city park. They are filled with crushed ice and
bottled water and soda on the day of the barbecue cook-off. Or I see one in front
of Rural King, our giant hardware store, filled with the sale items of the day:
ice scrapers or mouse traps or bags of peanuts roasted in the shells. I never
see those lead-gray tubs that I do not think of the one that hung beside the door
of the little house at the back of Miss Iva’s lot.
shoe horses, don't they?"
August 3, 2007
Columns by Robert G. Cowser