A New Gadget

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Andi’s Journal

March 1888

I know I’ll live to regret these words, but I’m so very happy the rain and unusually wet winter are behind me. When the thermometer reaches 105, I bet Riley will tease me and say, “Don’t you wish it was last winter again?” If he does, I’m going to bite my tongue. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the wild poppies, the new calves, and Shasta. Oh, and of course my sweet baby!

Jared is eight months old now, and he crawls all over the place. That means I must keep the floors clean. He likes to find little pieces of paper scraps, or dust balls, or other nasty things I’ve overlooked with my broom.

It is almost impossible to sweep a rug with a broom. Believe me, I’ve tried. And tried. It was especially bad when Riley accidentally tracked in mud this spring. It dried to gray powder and small clumps. I did my best to find every speck, but Jared can crawl so fast. And since he’s close up and personal to every little piece of dirt or toast scrap, I’m forever trying to keep ahead of him.

Just the other day, I yanked a bit of brown string from his mouth. He must have liked the taste because he threw a fit when I took it away.

But things came to a head a few days ago. Riley picked up Jared to give him a swing, and he noticed the baby was chewing on something. “What in the world?” he murmured. Then he fished around inside Jared’s mouth until he took hold of a splinter of kindling. The kind that I use to start the cook stove.

“Oh, dear, not again!” I wailed. I’ve tried to keep the kindling out of Jared’s reach, but small bits and splinters fall to the ground. The small stove in the sitting room is annoying too. Bits and pieces get stuck in the rug.

It’s a nice rug, without being outrageous, and it fits perfectly in the middle of the sitting room. Aunt Rebecca left it to me, a small rug from one of her spare rooms. It had my name on it, so after she passed, I figured I should take it, even though I felt strange about it. Now, I’m glad I did. I have her special letter to me, which I keep in my cedar chest, and I can “see” Aunt Rebecca every time I use the sitting room and walk on the carpet. It’s a little piece of her.

But that piece of fancy carpet is a collector of all things tiny and wood-colored. The splinters and bits of kindling hide in the brown and beige pattern so badly that I have to creep around on my hands and knees to see them. Jared clearly has much better eyes than I have. He manages to find his favorite “treat” even after I’ve made a careful sweep of it.

Anyway, Riley was not very happy about pulling a sharp–even though it was small–splinter from his baby son’s mouth. He gave me a very disappointed look and held up the slobbery piece of wood. “Do you know he could be pierced if this splinter got lodged in his throat?”

Riley was not telling me anything I didn’t already know. My eyes welled up with tears. Minding a baby is much more difficult than I thought it would be. Jared is the perfect baby–healthy, happy, and content–until he started scooting around. He’s been a terror ever since. A “terror” in the sense that I’m terrified something will hurt him.

Riley was immediately contrite when he saw my tears. “I didn’t mean to criticize you, darling,” he apologized. “I was just startled and surprised.”

“I know,” I whispered, pulling Jared into my arms. “I don’t want anything to happen to him, but I can’t watch him every second. He crawls so fast.” My face flamed. “What happens when he starts to walk?”

Riley didn’t answer. Instead, he wandered over to the end table and picked up a Montgomery Ward catalog. “There’s got to be something in here to help clean the floors better, don’t you think?” He smiled at me.

There sure was. Luisa used one every single day on the carpets of the Circle C ranch’s house. It was a luxury, one we could not afford. It would be best not to say anything.

Riley leafed through the pages. I joined him and peeked over his shoulder. Then he saw an advertisement for the very appliance I needed, a carpet sweeper. I remember when Mother got her first carpet sweeper. It came all the way from far-off Michigan. I was ten, and the contraption had been invented only two years before by a man named Meliville Bissell. Mother wouldn’t let Luisa touch it for a month and happily pushed those rotating brushes all around the carpets.

Mother wouldn’t let me touch it either, even though it looked like loads of fun to push around. Finally, after a month of playing with her new toy, Mother handed the device over to Luisa. Our Mexican housekeeper used it like it was the finest invention on the face of the earth. And now, Riley was thinking he might want one? I squinted to read the price and sucked in a breath.

He looked up. “This little contraption should sweep all the splinters and dust, and pieces of grain and everything else off the top of the carpet and store it inside the metal part.”

I nodded. I knew how it worked. My heart beat faster. “But Riley,” I told him. “Don’t you need a new axle for the buggy? And then I saw that Shasta needs–“

“Nope.” He bookmarked the page in the catalog. A firm look covered his face. “I know it’s an extravagance, my princess, but our little man needs to be safe. The axle can wait. I’m riding into town tomorrow and ordering this very machine from Mr. Goodwin.” He jabbed his finger onto the advertisement. “And if he can’t get it for me, I’ll order it directly from the mail-order catalog.” That settled, he ruffled Jared’s silky hair, gave me a kiss, and headed outside to finish up his chores. Just like that.

It took three weeks, but my carpet sweeper arrived. Riley dragged it inside, unwrapped it from the carton, and assembled it. “Look here,” he said, winking at me. “Bissell’s Princess. And it has ball bearings. Bet that makes for a smooth job. Looks pretty easy.”

Oh, it was. But the shine in Riley’s eyes made me bite my tongue and let him have the joy of discovery. He happily carpet-swept the sitting room. Then he turned it on the hardwood floor. It worked well there too.

I never let on that I was already well acquainted with a carpet sweeper. I use it every day now, much to Jared’s frustration. He can’t seem to find even one little speck to put in his mouth. Oh, how I love Riley! And yes, I love my new carpet sweeper too.

Did You Know?

Bissell invented the carpet sweeper in 1876, and they are still in business today. I wonder what Andi would think of this 21st century electric vacuum cleaner upgrade? Bissell still makes carpet sweepers too. Here is Bissell’s “Sturdy Sweep” (not as enchanting a name as Bissell’s “Princess,” but oh well). Not much has changed in carpet sweepers except for the color and that they are made of metal these days instead of wood.     

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

9 thoughts on “A New Gadget

  1. Would you believe, I still have, use, and appreciate a carpet sweeper! Only it is a Fuller (from the old Fuller Brush Company) Electrostatic instead of a Bissell. It is much lighter than any small vacuum cleaner, so gets used oftener.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I use a carpet sweeper when I help clean up the Kindergarten classroom at church (I volunteer once a month)! I didn’t realize they existed in the 1800s, though! You learn something new every day, I guess! πŸ˜€


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