2202. Lives of Children

Boy: You'd get up about 4:30 or five in the five in the morning, it was usually dark, and then you'd take the mules and get them hitched up. Walk with them for a spell before breakfast. And for breakfast, ma would be cooking some eggs she had kept under the stern. She might have some cured ham or bacon, too. Real salty. Or maybe oatmeal. Pretty much the same thing for dinner, too. Girl: For supper, we could have steak dad bought in town and potatoes fried up, or maybe some fish caught in the canal. Or a pot pie. There were soups, too, like bean soup or turtle soup. And you could catch some eels in the canal or in a lock and fry them up. And we always had biscuits and bread. Boy: When you was walking with the mules - and in summertime you'd walk barefoot - you could pick some berries in the woods, collect enough for a pie. There were apples and corn along the way, too. Girl: Of course, you'd never drink no water from the canal. The garbage from all the cooking went in there. And you'd empty your chamber pots into the canal. Boy: And after shoveling out the stable, all that manure might be thrown in there, too. Girl: No, you'd never drink water form the canal. Never use it for cooking, neither. Had all that stuff in it. We'd always fill up jugs of spring water at a lock. You wouldn't get sick from that. Always spring water. Boy: Canal water was alright for washing the floor or swimming in, but not for cooking. Girl: There was always lots of chores to be done, like cleaning, because the coal dust got everywhere. And there was washing and mending. Boy: And if ma was doing all those chores, she'd tie up the real young'uns in a harness so they wouldn't fall in the canal. Boat's kind of a dangerous place. Lots of drownings. Girl: But for the most part, it was real nice like. I always like just walking along with the mules, or sometimes dad would let me steer the boat a spell. Boy: You could listen to the birds singing, smell the wildflowers. Girl: Or maybe just chat with some of the folks. Boy: I guess looking back on it, it was a pretty good life. Sure, it was real tough compared to nowadays and all the stuff we got now, but people were mostly friendly and good. Girl: It was a real good place to grow up on.