"NOOOOOOOOO!!!" I screamed running as fast as my short legs would carry me. "I don't wanna bath!" I yelled looking behind me. My mother was gaining on me. Clyde was laughing over by the barn.
It was our grandmother's farm in Georgia and it had been raining all morning. Clyde and I had been caught in it. He turned to me, "Wanna do something fun?" I was always up for fun.
“See the corner of the barn there?"
"Uh huh. What of it?"
"Follow me." We were soaked to the skin on this warm summer morning. The rain had been steady for about an hour and we had been in the fields looking for arrowheads when it had begun. By the time we made it to the house we were soaked through. With a wave of his hand like Ward Bond of Wagon Train he yelled, "Forward!"
He sprinted toward the barn. At top speed he dropped to his side as if sliding into home plate. Momentum took him far beyond the barn along a slick red Georgia mud trail. My face erupted into a smile and my feet took off. As fast as I could go I took to the air and hit the slippery red trail.
Splat! I slid almost as far as Clyde had. Along the way I picked up a thick layer of red Georgia clay.
"Wow," I said getting up and trotting back to our start point. "GERONOMO!" shouted Clyde as he flew past me. I heard him hit with a slick slush and slide.
It was my turn again. Off I went. Liquid mud splashed to the sides as I sailed along the new ditch our bodies had begun to dig with each passage. That continued for more trips than I can remember until we were covered top to bottom in a thick red coat of that famous red Georgia clay. Since the rain had stopped the slide wasn't as slippery and the slides weren't as long. We stopped and laughed at each other with our new outer skins.
"Tell you what," Clyde said, "We'll make some mud balls to dry in the sun for this evening."
"I'll show you after they are hard as bricks."
"OK," I said as we began the stairs to the front porch. With the squeak of the screen door there came a shriek from the porch. "What the...!! What have you two boys been up to? How did you get so... Where is your father?" It was my mother. She seemed perturbed about something. "Alfred! Come see what your son has done!" I was the only one being screamed at. Clyde began to chuckle. My dad came to the porch and shook his head.
"You can't come in here like that."
"But I have to come in to eat."
"Not like that!" he said. "You need a bath."
"Bath tub's inside."
"Yes, it is. But you can't come in here like that."
So what am I going to do, I thought, stay outside forever because I'm a little dirty?
“That is too much mud for the tub in here."
"What'll I do?"
Clyde was cackling.
"Well, now. Seeing as you like that outside mud you can bathe out there."
"Over there by the well. Take off your clothes and get into the syrup basin."
The syrup basin looked like a huge WWI helmet the English troops wore. It was used to catch the juice from the sugar cane grown and squeezed on the farm after which a fire was set under it to boil the juice down into the thick sweet syrup we put over pancakes. "What? Take off my clothes? Out there? You want me to take a bath out side in that thing?"
It was inconceivable my dad was telling me this. Undress outside in front of the entire world? It was too much. My mother opened the screen and grabbed for my hand. I snatched it away and took off. She followed behind. Clyde was roaring with laughter. My dad went back to the table and his paper shaking his head. The chase lasted a while. My mother was determined. When caught, I refused.
"If you don't take off those filthy clothes I'll have to throw you down the well to wash off."
I looked at her like she was crazy.
"OK," she said grabbing my hand and leading me to the circular stone structure. She lifted me up and I peered down. There was a distant flash of reflected light on the surface far below us.
"NO! Don't throw me down the well! You win!"
She put me down and I slowly began removing my by now thickly crusted attire.
"Everything!" she said standing over me with arms crossed. I submitted and climbed into the syrup cauldron.
"Stay there," she said walking to the well. She cranked the bucket to the side, pulled it over getting a grip on it and then threw the contents over me. She repeated this two or three times. The water and newly formed mud slid down me into the basin below. "
Stand right there. Don't move," she said. She walked to the house. Clyde came over and started laughing again. He didn't hear his mother come up behind him. She caught him by the ear and ordered, "Strip! And get in there."
I fully appreciated the look of surprise and chagrin on his face. It was my turn to laugh.