The feather mattress on my parents' bed got bigger and bigger with each hunting season.  It was stuffed with goose and duck feathers plucked from the game Dad brought home.  We each had a big feather pillow, too, but we slept on moss mattresses. 
About every three months, Mom had the men haul the mattresses outside to be aired in the sun, and they had to be beaten with paddles to get the dust out and to fluff the feathers and moss up.  The pillows were aired on sunny days, too, and every once in a while, the feathers were emptied out into a large sack and the ticking was washed and dried and then re-stuffed.

Dad still had that feather mattress when he died, and Dee took it home to Texas when we cleaned out his apartment.  She had it made into several plump feather comforters, and gave one to each of her siblings.  I think mine finished its life folded into a mattress which I put into the big cradle that my husband built for Cissi.  That cradle was big enough for two babies, painted white and I had put pretty little decals on it.
There was a family that lived out in the marsh.  They earned their living picking and curing Spanish moss to sell to be used to fill mattresses and for stuffing chairs.  I remember going out to their cabin a couple of times with Dad when he went to get moss for a new mattress.  I never knew too much about the curing process, but I do know that the father in this family had a long pole with a hook on it which he used to pull the long "beards" of moss out of the trees, and the mother and children stuffed it into big sacks and hauled it back to the cabin, where it was washed and spread out in the sun to dry.  After days of drying, the velvety gray-green outer layer fell off, leaving only the black spongey center, which looked like little curley wires.

The cabin in the marsh that this family lived in had a palmetto roof.  They had cut and trimmed palmetto leaves and laid them in an overlapping pattern to form a good solid roof to keep out the rain.  It was very efficient.  I spent the night with this family once and it rained.  There is no sound quite like the sound of rain on a palmetto roof.  (The metal roof I have now runs a close second.)

Palmetto leaves were used for other things as well.  There was some growing down by the bayou, and Grandpa cut a few nice leaves every year for Mom to make into fans, which we used to keep cool during the hot, muggy summer.  She made palmetto fly swatters, too.  We tried weaving strips of palmetto leaves into hats one year, but they didn't turn out too well, so we dug out our old tattered straw hats we had used the previous summer, and bound the frayed brims with strips of fabric, like Mom bound the edges of the fans she made.

I guess "times" were hard when I was a kid, but I never  felt underprivileged.  I learned to be creative, to use what was on hand to fashion things I wanted.  We never thought of it as "making do" - we were too busy doing.  That was the Cajun way.


Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA

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