Column: Milk-bottle incident remained a mystery

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 24, 2001

If I had been asked about the bottoms being clipped clean off the two quart milk bottles, I, of course, would have explained.

Thursday, May 24, 2001

If I had been asked about the bottoms being clipped clean off the two quart milk bottles, I, of course, would have explained. At least I would have made an attempt to explain. As a child it often seemed difficult to me to explain things to adults. It wasn’t that I wished to withhold information. It was just that certain things lay beyond my power to explain.

Email newsletter signup

At this time of the year I was overwhelmed with joy. School closed for the summer on the Friday before Memorial Day. From then on, except for having to play a memorized piano piece in the piano recital, appearing in the dance recital, and participating in the usual summer chores, three months of pure ecstasy lay before me.

After I made my bed, practiced my music, and read my Sunday School lesson, I was more or less free for the day. I was expected home when the noon whistle blew and when the four p.m. whistle blew. Some time during the day I was sent to bring home two quarts of milk. I could choose my own time.

It was not difficult. A middle-aged couple in the next block lived in town but farmed. Milk customers brought clean empty milk bottles with either a dime in each bottle or a ticket and took away a full bottle of milk. If the lady of the house were home she came out, took charge of the empty and gave you a full bottle.

Because I was honing my skills to become a detective, I always tried to sneak up onto her back porch, where the milk was kept in a large ice-box, without being noticed. I carried the empty milk bottles in a paper shopping bag with double handles. As did all the other customers I left the empties on a table set out for the purpose.

I was ever so sneaky about it and by taking a zig zag course usually managed to get the milk and off with it without being noticed.

It all began to seem a little too easy. I decided to add an element of greater risk. My family and the family to the east of us each lived at the top of a hill. To reach our houses you had to ascend about eight cement steps. The house to the east was occupied by a domineering old mother and her two unmarried daughters. They hated having anyone walking on their grass.

It makes sense to me now. Back then I decided they were part of a gang of dangerous criminals who only made a fuss about their grass to ward off anyone finding out about their sinister occupation.

It seemed evident to me that it was my duty to be on the lookout. I took to climbing their steps instead of ours and looking well about me. Knowing how dangerous they were, I was always a bit nervous and tended to hurry.

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. I cracked the bag with the two bottles of milk up against a step. It didn’t immediately leak so I felt that all was well. When my mother took it from me, though, and started to lift the bottles out the tops were neatly detached from the bottoms. Milk was all over everything.

My father was at the table reading the evening newspaper. He and my mother both seemed to be surprised. They were extremely verbal about it. I didn’t want them to think I was eavesdropping so I sort of drifted out of the room.

As I left, though, I heard my father say, &uot;Why don’t you ask Love what happened?&uot;

My mother’s reply summed up the advantages of having a parent who thinks you’re a bit wanting. &uot;Because,&uot; she said, &uot;I think I’ll be happier not knowing.&uot;

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.