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Making soap was difficult chore
Liberty lore
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Some of the older people in our area may remember when they or their parents made soap in their backyards. Not that I am that old, but I do remember my mama making lye soap in the iron wash pot.
The first image I saw of the devil — and one that always sticks in my mind —  is the red man with sharp pointed ears who held a pitchfork and once adorned cans of Red Devil’s Lye. Daddy kept that can high on a rafter in the kitchen so we children could not reach it. We were always warned how dangerous it was. That was one item we were not even tempted to touch!
Mama made lye soap about once a year, usually just after hog butchering so she had plenty of lard. She boiled any cracklins that were left from previous hog butcherings and skimmed the lard off them. I also remember her burning a lot of oak wood and saving the white ashes to make soap. She then boiled the ashes and drained the water from them.
I don’t recall exactly how she made the soap, I just know she stirred lard, Red Devil’s Lye and oak ash water into a big iron wash pot and “cooked” it in the yard. Mama used a wooden paddle to stir the mixture and when it was done, she pulled the fire from under the pot and let the soap set until it was firm. Finally, she cut it in hunks or small pieces and stored it.
Mama is 90 years old now and I just talked with her about making the soap. She said it was very good to use when scrubbing clothes on the scrub board to get them clean. Later, she would melt hunks and pour them into the wringer washing machine to clean daddy’s overalls and work clothes. She said she used it many times for bathing as that was the only kind we had.
This lye soap was used to wash dishes, clothes, floors and even babies. The cleanser was not as harsh as you might think. I actually have some lye soap that I bought recently, but I cannot bring myself to wash my face with it. However, the lady who sold it to me did promise it clears up all kinds of skin problems. I’m worried it may remove my freckles and I certainly don’t want that.
These days, I am glad I can buy nice-smelling soap from the grocery store instead of having to make lye soap. It’s funny to think soap-making used to be a necessity, the same as growing a garden for food. Times have certainly changed!
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