The Enamel Bucket
Kicked the bucket. I toed at a piece of rusting metal while exploring the back yard of my grandparent's home. There is nothing of material worth there.
With a metal detector, I scanned the area where my grandmother's clothes line was hung between weather saplings. Nothing. I speculated that perhaps a coin or rare button had escaped.
She searched pockets for anything of value. If she found a coin in my grandfather's overalls, she saved it in a Mason jar.
This deteriorating piece of metal bucket retained the connection point for the bail. Specks of interior enamel were evident.
Enameled containers were made by coating steel items with powdered glass and firing them at high temperature. Enamel pails are nearly impervious to anything you want to put in them. Enamel kitchen tables and sinks are still popular, as well as enamel cast iron cookware.
The enamel made the bucket easy to clean, and when new was probably white on the inside with a red ring about midway up.
There were reinforcing rings near the top to prevent the bucket from bending from the weight of milk. A gallon of milk weighs over 8 pounds.
My grandfather used the enamel bucket as his milk bucket on twice-daily trips to the barn to relieve his milk cow.
He favored Jersey cows and owned a line of them. They produced all the milk they could use with cream for churning butter. He often traded cream and butter with neighbors or sold it to Mr. Bomar, a distant relative who was a traveling peddler.
I followed my grandfather up the hill, past his pig pen, to the barn. There is nothing left of it. I can't even recall where it stood.
The corn crib was nearby, with the lower walls covered by sheets of roofing tin to prevent mice and rats from using the crib as their pantry.
Barn cats helped, and he was prone to catch rat snakes and toss them into the crib.
After retirement, he got out of the milking business, and the old milk bucket found other uses. It was used while picking blackberries, muscadines and huckleberries.
I recall the bucket holding a clump of wild violets moved from a spot near the well.
There was nothing of the bucket worth saving except the memory of it; watching Papa fill the bucket and squeezing out a stream of warm milk at a waiting cat.
The memory of the old bucket was enough.