Having grown up in the country before they outlawed getting dirty, I was an expert on dirt. Anything under my feet or on my clothes was considered dirt. Getting dirty while playing outside was a way to assure you had a good time. In fact, I personally believe growing up and playing in the dirt helped to make me healthier.
When I began to write this story, I wanted to see what the dictionary had to say about the word, “Dirt.” It said, “Material found in the earth’s crust.
The term dirty means having contact with a person’s clothes.” I remember that term very well, “You got your clothes dirty again.” Well yeaaaaa, how else can I be expect to play in our tree house, wade mud puddles and explore caves? I did not purposely roll in the dirt… well maybe just a couple of times. But mostly dirt found its way onto my clothes all by itself. That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.
Back in those days, it was nearly impossible to remove dirt and grass stains once they were on your clothes. They just seemed to become part of the material. Soap detergent of the day simply could not remove the dirt and grime of the world along Fishing Creek. Today’s washing detergents have enzymes and emulsifiers to help remove the grit and grime of the world around us. Back then, if Tide didn’t wash it out, it was part of your clothes forever. Remember when your parents would tell you,
“Those are new school clothes; don’t get them dirty.” Yea right, like that was going to happen. Just to show you how far we have come since those days back in the early 60s…
The other day on the morning news, they told of how manufacturers of jeans are now making them look like they are dirty. How much can a special pair of designer dirty pants set back your wallet? As much as $400. How times have changed. Back then I must have been wearing jeans that are worth a fortune today.
Dirt has become big business these days. Recently, Mary asked if I would go into town and get her a bag of dirt. Not any dirt mind you, it had to be a special dirt so she could plant her hanging flower pots. Now, you have to remember that we own nearly 70 acres of dirt. But, I guess that dirt is not up to standards when it comes to her hanging baskets. So, off I went to find dirt for her hanging baskets. The assignment seemed easy enough, until I found myself staring at two rows of dirt at the local super store of garden supplies.
I walked along, looking at the different bags of dirt, and by the way it’s not called dirt anymore. It’s soil. I began to wonder which one was the hanging basket dirt. While I was pondering the situation, I saw a lady with a puzzled look on her face staring at the bags of dirt also. I said to her, “Confusing isn’t it?” She replied, “I am going to go inside and tell them I want a bag of potting soil; whatever bag the boy puts in the car, will be the one I need, or at least I hope.”
To satisfy my curiosity, I counted the different types of dirt that were arranged in neat rows. Now, I am not talking about different types of mulch or peat moss or any of the other materials found in the garden section. I am just talking about the ones used to plant things in. There was a total of 20 different wooden pallets that were stacked with some type of planting soil. There was potting soil that contained worm castings. Special moisture retaining potting soil. Moisture controlling potting soil. Soil that prevents over and under watering. I really have to wonder about that one and how it works. Soil for garden vegetables. Soil for garden vegetables and flowers.
Top soil, lawn soil, organic potting soil, organic lawn soil, organic garden soil, organic humus and manure. Soil for indoors and out. Outdoor potting soil with special time release fertilizer. Expert potting soil. I guess an amateur could not buy this one. Soil for in ground use only. Soil for vegetables and herbs. Soil for flowers, soil for roses, soil for trees and shrubs. Soil for raised garden beds. Remember it’s not dirt, it is called “soil.” After all who would want to pay nine dollars for an old bag of dirt? Now, you know the dirty little secret of the soil industry in our country. It’s the same guys that sold ice to Eskimos, I am betting.
After reading the information on the bags, I wanted to open the different bags to see what was inside. I’ll bet you if I had, I would not see any soil that looks like the dirt under my feet. Dirt is big business and getting bigger each year. Each season they convince you, the only way to grow healthy flowers and vegetables is to use their products. If you believe that, I will tell you about Mary’s mom and the gardens she raised each year. She grew enough vegetables to supply their family from one gardening season until the next. Each summer she filled the cellar house with canned beans, corn, pickles, along with a variety of other vegetables. You may ask, what was her secret to outstanding gardens? Good old Wetzel County dirt and it was free in her garden. Each year, she added a little fertilizer purchased at the feed store and some the livestock provided. Next was her real secret to gardening, each morning she went to work, keeping the weeds from growing in her garden.
She would be amused if she knew I purchased a bag of dehydrated manure to put around my plants this year.
If I know her, she would have sent me to the barn with a shovel to gather it fresh from the four legged natural fertilizer factory. The next time you hear someone refer to dirt, I’ll give you something to think about from my childhood. The road that encircled our small neighborhood was mostly dirt with spots of gravel here and there.
Each summer there was a persistent mud hole in the road that dried out in the hot sun. As the cars traveled the road, their tires would pulverize the dried dirt into a fine dust. It was as fine as baby powder. I remember playing in the road with my toys in the fine dusty dirt. If I were to pick it up, it was so fine it ran like water between my fingers. If I close my eyes I can still feel the heat of the summer sun trapped in the brown dry dirt.
When I think of dirt, this is what I will always remember it means to me. And maybe now, you will remember a patch of dirt from your youth, as l helped you look back Through the Lens.