Kicking the (Bucket) Habit

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The old-time farm family found many uses for buckets.

I can proudly announce to FarmCollector readers that with great resolve, strong character, determination and counseling, I have finally kicked the habit.

No longer does my heart skip a beat as I hit the brakes, shift into reverse and squeal my tires, backing up to retrieve an empty, plastic 5-gallon bucket lying beside the road.

Proof of my accomplishment comes from the fact that, for the past week, I have driven right past a clean 5-gallon bucket on my way to the coffee shop each morning. Each trip is getting easier as my hands relax more and my braking leg doesn’t jerk as I drive past.

Some of you young whippersnappers may not understand the significance of a bucket to the wellbeing of an old-time farm family. Products were often purchased more to get the metal bucket than to get the product inside. The adage of “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is very true when it comes to buckets.

I once conducted a contest for the most uses of a plastic 5-gallon bucket. A grand total of 378 different uses were eventually determined. Of course, every conceivable item small enough could be carried in a bucket. Sitting, standing, jumping, carrying, kicking and washing with buckets were listed. Did you know you can patch a hole in a bucket with chewing gum, then hold a lit match under the gum to harden it?

Rather than drawers, one man used a stack of plastic buckets laid on their sides to store his underwear, socks and loose clothes. He says this works only until you get married. A lady gathered cow chips in buckets, filled the buckets with water to soak and then poured the “tea” on her flowers and plants. An old timer recalled emptying his family’s acetylene generator into a bucket and then pouring the white liquid around fruit trees to keep borers away. My neighbor hauls a plastic bucket around in her pickup as a status symbol, telling the world she is a “dyed in the wool” redneck.

In the panhandle of Texas where rain is scarce, a 5-gallon bucket can be placed in the attic under a leak in the roof. The water caught will evaporate out before the next rain. Tired feet can be soaked in a 5-gallon bucket of hot water (if your feet are small enough to fit). Gardeners tell me they can get rid of unwanted zucchini squash by filling a clean plastic bucket with the product and setting it outside the local post office entrance. Even if you don’t need the squash, you can use the bucket.

An elderly gentleman wrote to say he had the collecting habit most of his life and now has a barn full of plastic buckets and Folgers coffee cans, just in case anyone runs out. His descendants are placing bets on who inherits the barn’s contents. A cow-dog trainer says he trains cow-dog puppies to work cattle by placing a puppy in a small pen with several young ducks and a plastic bucket lying on its side. Within minutes the dog is herding ducks into the bucket.

Another old-timer with four brothers says their tennis shoes got to smelling so bad in the summertime that they placed the stinkers in a bucket and lowered them out their upstairs window at night so they could sleep. Now that tops the lot. FC

Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; e-mail:
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