Mary Ridgeway's memories/2

Resistant to bugs - and dangerous bulls

After leaving school I was to work at home. I cooked, cleaned, scrubbed the stone floors and helped in the sub post office we ran.  I used help to write letters for some of the older people and wrap their parcels for them to post. I loved that part of it.  Outside work was helping with the livestock - cows and calves, pigs, the horse and all sorts of poultry, plus gardening and muckspreading. Dad and I used to cut down a tree every so often to supply our firewood. This was done with a crosscut saw and an axe - no safety measures then.

We used to get really hard winters in those days, with snow and ice to the top of the hedges. I always had broken chilblains on my hands and feet. Looking back, I wonder now how it was we didn’t get blood poisoning as Mum used to put goose fat on the wounds and you can guess how the cats loved licking that! Maybe they served the same purpose as leeches - perish the thought.

I think we were much more resilient to bugs then. After all, we had no fridges or freezers. We just used to smell if our food was edible as I still do to this day. I really think the world we live in today is too sterile and doesn’t allow our bodies to build up its own immune system.

I also used to stand in as relief post woman when postmen had holidays or were off sick. The post rounds were 11 miles and 15 miles each, all country farms and cottages. That was in the days you could send a parcel to the weight of 11 pounds for a charge of one shilling, I used to hope the last house didn’t have one as I only had a bicycle. I used to quite like meeting all the farming family people. I was much too young to be doing the job really, but it helped to keep us in food, I was told.

It was when doing this that I was followed up through the field by a snorting bull at my heels. I opened the door of the house and walked straight in. I was so scared, The farmer said it was quite harmless and Dad said you must never show fear, but I was not that brave where a bull was concerned. Shortly after that same bull was to kill its owner!

At another time I was mauled by an Alsatian dog that had never been loose before. Thankfully the farmer I had just delivered mail to was on the alert and rushed up to beat him off with a pitchfork. To this day I am scared of those dogs.

Then of course there was the hay making – turning, treading and loading the wagons, making the haystacks etc. This was a very busy time for us all.

 Read more of Mary's Clayhidon memories:

 - At school in Battle Street with a slate and no paper
- No NHS, and I nearly die of a burst appendix
- How teenagers had fun in 1937
My wonderful dad: horse whisperer and first car owner in the parish

At an early age I learned to drive an old Austin 12 Dad had converted into a truck to drive around the fields. I well remember one day we had loaded up with cow manure to spread on the fields. Dad got on the truck and I had to drive while he dumped a pile every few feet. He called to me to “drive on” each time and on this occasion my legs were getting tired and I didn’t double clutch properly. When I did I shot Dad straight onto the heap he had just dumped. He was not amused!

Another of my regular jobs was to polish the brass lamps on the bullnose Renault we had at the time and Dad used as a taxi. He was the first person to have a car in Clayhidon and taught many to drive, mainly along the top road, which we now call the Monument road. 

 He also had a wonderful way with horses. I suppose you would call him a horse whisperer these days. I used to have to take these huge old carthorses to rented pasture, I was scared to death of them, but was told you must never show fear again.