Once upon a time we had a rain downpour at 415 Parral Street in a Riverside area Brownsville, Texas neighborhood. A dreaded hurricane was upon us! Texas summers summon dangerous storms and hurricanes in June, July, August and even September. As always our home, located near the mouth of the Rio Grande River was home to our pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, dogs, guniea pigs, and cats. With five children running around in our 3 acre lot, there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy free roaming spaces.
The clouds were dark bluish, gloomy and the grey dust filled the wind which whipped up speed. Running to unhook the clothing from the clothesline, I began to feel the tempesta, storm gifting us with cold pellets of water which attacked me and the parched earth. In those days, we had a secadora, clothes dryer at home but Mom always harped that we could only use the dryer on special occasions in the winter time…pos in other words nunca--- never! According to Maria Elena, my mother, el sol, the sun was our natural dryer because using the electric dryer sale mas caro el bill. In other words dryers took too much energy and the light bill would be too expensive to pay at the end of the month. My sisters and I hurried to put out aluminum silverfish colored buckets on the outside corners of our wooden frame home. Why? This corner secret ritual is one where we trapped water in buckets or pails and then we would use it as a natural hair rinse after a shampoo in a home full of girls, five of us plus Mom! Otravez! Mom lectured us on the purity of this heaven sent holy water poured by angels directly for us and how we should treasure it and use it sparingly. It was considered liquid gold in our house!
As we raced outside like lunatics looking for our pet ducks, we viewed an ungodly sight, our ducks were drowning in the pot holes and muddy grass paths along the backyard fence. My sister, Lizzy and I scooped up as many Chocolate de la Abuelita looking baby ducklings; they were drenched in brown brackish, soupy mud and we stuffed as many as we could in our aprons and cotton dresses. The rain poured unforgivingly and so merciless that we were blinded by mud and curtains of rain. I think at last count, we had 15 squawking ducklings sprawled all over the kitchen floor; we dried them in giant white bath towels, used only for when company visited; we also sneaked in Mom’s best blankets, trying to hide the shivering miniature noisy creatures. Some ducks survived but others drowned in the process of moving inside our kitchen.
Then all of a sudden, my baby sister, Lizzy had a brilliant idea as usual….we should put all the live trembling baby ducklings inside the clothes dryer, secadora for warmth. Que smart idea! My brother, Baltazar, kept my mom distracted (so she wouldn’t discover our secret dryer use plan of action).The living room was not far from the kitchen so we needed a spy out there and it had to be my brother; he had to keep mom entertained with the TV volume at full blast so she could not hear the dryer working in overtime mode. Mom was well occupied or so we thought. After running the dryer for about 15 minutes at a time, we inserted the soaked ducklings into the barrel drum of the dryer carefully wrapped in Mom’s “company only” soft, dry, fluffy, white towels. The ducklings would not shut up; their quacking was getting louder. Poor duckies, they missed their moms, homes, worm snacks and natural dry grass surroundings. We continued to run the dryer dangerously at 15-minute intervals until all the ducks were either dry or dead.
Soon my mother burst into the kitchen unexpectantly and discovered our drying duck secret. We were caught red handed. Yikes! Now what? We could no longer hide our duck mess.
“Con una rechingada, que estan hacienda huercas? Estan locas o que?” thundered Mom in her mighty voice and loud unlady-like footsteps.
We were spanked, scolded and sent to our room where we slept warmly in our bed…all bunched up like rolly pollies but we felt like St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa all rolled into one because we had saved the mighty drowning ducks. So much for the duck tales, and now our tails were chapped by the leather belt and Mom’s mighty chancla. Esa noche durmimos bien calientitas mis hermanitas y yo!