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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Ragman Cometh

This is just a funny personal memoir. The picture is not mine, but comes from a wonderful blog post by GreenGiant whose blog "is intended to capture memories and experiences of earlier years and to convey a sense of history and continuity to our offspring and relatives."

I find it interesting that her memories are from Buffalo, New York, just a few hours drive from where I grew up. Let me be quick to say that I do not remember a real ragman. However, I was both terrified of and fascinated by such a person.

Just in case you are reading this, and are younger than sixty-ish, let me just explain that the ragman would drive around and buy used clothing, blankets, etc. from people. When fibers were all natural (wool, cotton, linen, silk), collecting these fibers was profitable. They could be recycled- wool could often be recarded and spun, and the rest were used to make high-quality paper, called... duh... rag paper.


So, what made me think of the ragman today? A Facebook friend reported that her four-year-old grandson said, "you cannot sell me to garbage men and you cannot send me anywhere because I cannot leave the back porch... so grandma you are stuck with me."

I really did laugh out loud, and I'll tell you why. The only goofy threat that was ever used on me as a child to make me mind was, "If you are not good, I will sell you to the ragman." My grandmother used to tell me this. Although she absolutely doted on me (way too much, I should add), I was a constant source of frustration to her, as I simply refused to act like a proper girl. I hated dresses and gloves and hats. I seldom played with dolls, and cared nothing about my clothes. I suspect that I looked like I was ready for the ragpicker's wagon a lot of the time.

It's been years since I have thought about those threats. In fact, if you'd asked me if I was ever treated that way by the adults in my family I would have said "no." There was no boogy-man, or calling the police, or other ridiculous terrors. But, there was the ragman.

I recall, the first few times I was warned of a new life among the rags, being frightened of such a fate. My father and mother just didn't say things they didn't mean. Dad, especially, dealt in facts. So, I assumed Granny meant what she said. I think my mother informed me that it was a strange kind of joke.

As time went on, I became as frustrated with Granny's efforts to transform me into a little lady as she was with me. Life on the road with the ragman began to sound pretty good. Perhaps I've found another cause of my wanderlust.

See A Game of Tag for a view of what the ragpicker nearly got
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Lin said...

I know about the ragman! And the iceman and the knife sharpener too. My mom used to tell me how they would come down the street calling out for business.

It's funny, but we have these phrases from those days and I still use them--but nobody knows what I'm talking about. I can't even spell one of them--but it means "Joe pees under the street" Joe Putzivookem (?) Anywho--they built the streets higher than some houses in Chicago, back in the day. This is a slang term for those people who lived below street level.

I love when I say that and somebody actually knows what I'm saying!

shelly said...

My mother used to tell my daughters the Hoogie-woogies would come out of the ground and get them if they didn't stay in thier beds. They were nocturnal creatures that lived under ground and came out at night to eat little children who didn't stay in thier beds.

Secondary Roads said...

The town I grew up in was too small to afford a ragman. We did, however, have a town drunk. Rumor had it that several had volunteered for that job, but they didn't want to take turns.

Ann said...

I can't recall ever being threatened with anything like that other than in December the old santa is watching threat.

Island Hopes said...

The rag and bone many in Singapore is still alive and well and yells out his name everytime he's around: "Karangguniiiiiii"

Amberr Meadows said...

Aw, that's such a cute story. My grandmother never told me she'd sell me to the Ragman--she just said she'd send me to a home for "wayward girls."

Sharkbytes said...

Lin- that's too funny! So maybe instead of calling people a putz, we should call them a pootz.

shelly- gives me the willies that people really do that stuff

Chuck- hmmm. We had that character covered (in my family)

Ann- The Santa thing was never more than a game in our house.

Island Hopes- thanks for stopping by! rags and bones... that's an interesting combo.

Amberr- Did you believe it? Seems scary to me.

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