This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Millis challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.
It may not be a country, but it seems as far away and foreign as any country might be–the country of my childhood, when:
- My mum did the laundry in a big copper pot heated over burning logs. She’d fill the pot and heat the water then use a long wooden stick to swirl around the sheets or clothes before hanging them over the line to dry in the sun. I wrote about this in a previous flash (nearly four years ago!): Washing Day.
- Items were bought from a general store in exchange for coins or notes. There were no supermarkets, credit cards, pay pass or online shopping. Storekeepers were friendly and knew each member of the family by name.
My favourite coin was the penny with the Queen on the head, and a kangaroo on the tail. Though made from a bronze alloy and only 97% copper, we called it copper nonetheless.
- Almost all water pipes, hot and cold, were made of copper. Most still are, but some have been replaced by plastic which is initially cheaper but not as long-lasting. I remember the colourful pipes leading to the concrete wash tubs when we moved to suburbia and Mum got a real washing machine. The hot water pipes were wrapped in asbestos.
- Policemen (I don’t recall too many policewomen back then) were respected, and we had fun playing cops and robbers. There was always a debate over who was going to be the copper and who was going to be the robber, but it went without saying that the copper always won.
- I was a (naturally) copper-haired child, one of four in a family of ten. With our very fair skin, the sun wasn’t kind to us and our skin had no resemblance to that of the Coppertone girl who started to appear on billboards a little later.
- We would “spend a penny” to use public facilities, sometimes handing our coin to an attendant, or even putting it into a slot in the door!
- Days were long, and time and possibilities were infinite. Life was black and white, and we children had not a care in the world as parents knew everything and took care of everything.
It’s to this childhood country of laid back times, when the whole world was open to us and copper pennies could buy happiness, that I have returned–it may not be the real world of my childhood, but rather one of my dreams. I hope you like it.
Spend a penny or two
Coins jingled in his pocket as bare feet squeaked out every step along the sandy road. Every so often, he’d finger them–such big coins. In his mind, he spent and re-spent them: a dress for Mum, a hat for Dad, a pull-a-long toy for Baby–nothing for himself.
He watched the boy place the copper on the counter. He followed the hopeful gaze, shook his head and pointed to lolly jars. The boy held up four fingers; he held up one. The boy hesitated, then shoved the coins back in his pocket–to spend another day.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.