Scraps make swell swill
SWILL is a word the generations have eliminated from our customs and our language, and this is a shame. That swill and garbage may be used one for the other in a certain meaning is granted, but back in the days of a rurally oriented people, we knew only swill. Now the differences are several. For one thing, swill seems to have taken on a negative sound, and the truly genteel perfected a preference for garbage. Gurth and Wamba talked about this back along, noticing that words for animals are usually Anglo-Saxon, whereas the better set likes to use Norman words for the products. Pigs, swine, hogs in the barnyard, but pork on the table. Beef from cows; mutton from sheep.
So swill seems to derive from Old English, but garbage is Roman. In my youth we knew nothing about garbage, but swill was useful and we never wasted it. The kitchen sink had a swill dish - a basin with drain holes. Table scraps went into it, and regular trips were made to the barn and henhouse to empty it. Everybody had biddies and everybody kept a pig.
In swill days there were no garbage problems, and because we had hens and hogs we lacked many another problem, too. Look up the word ort. Ort left the language before swill did; anybody cleaning up after supper put the orts in the hens' swill dish, and they were recycled, except that we didn't know about recycling.
The euphuism that fetched on garbage made its own new distinction - garbage is useless. Swill was as good as money in the bank. In my youth I carried swill to the hens, and now that we have no animals, I take it to my compost heap and get the good of it. Waste not, want not. Today hereabouts a man comes once a week to carry my neighbors' garbage to the sanitary landfill.
When my father arose the morning of his 75th birthday anniversary he did not know that a little party had been arranged by his friends and neighbors, and that they would gather in the evening to help him get accustomed to that new number.
Such things need to be a secret, so after supper there had to be some kind of subterfuge to get Father out of the house while the assembly formed and the cake was lighted on the sideboard. My mother, not otherwise given to deceit, used the swill dish as the excuse. Instead of putting the orts from supper therein, she kept them aside and out of sight, dumping them in at just the right time and saying, ``Oh, Frank - you forgot to take out the swill!''
Frank mumbled that he'd looked and ``they warn't none,'' but the house rule forbade orts in the sink overnight. Dusk was due and the world on the edge of night. Dad grabbed the swill dish while there was yet time, scooted through the kitchen door into the shed, and gained the henhouse just as the birds had decided to settle on the roosts for the night. They wondered what had happened to their postprandial provender, and decided it was a lost cause.
They were delighted when Dad appeared to toss their swill on the henhouse floor, and they scrambled down to partake. The joyful manner in which hens approach nourishment is a profound experience in unbounded gratitude.
Dad, in the midst of his flock, appreciated the remarks and stood there in the dim light for a moment until each hen had spoken in full. He was about to return to the house (and the party, except that he didn't know there was to be a party) and all at once he realized that he hadn't picked up the day's donation of eggs.
He stepped carefully through the pecking hens to gain the row of nests on the far wall, and felt into each nest and filled the swill dish with what he found. The swill dish was just full, so he held it in the palm of one hand and protected the eggs with the other. Gingerly and gently he made his way out, hasping the door, coming across the barnyard, and entering the dark shed to come to the kitchen door.
Everybody was there, and an attentive ear heard him coming. A voice whispered, ``All ready! Here he comes!'' At this, the kitchen door was flung open wide and everybody began to sing ``Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,'' etc. The swinging door took care of the 17 fresh eggs in the swill dish. They began seeping through the drain holes onto my father's overalls and onto the shed floor.
My father's surprise-party remarks were not heard above the singing, which was good, and then he sportingly removed his overalls and hove them after the swill dish into a corner. He washed up at the sink and then blew out the candles. I merely submit that the word ``garbage'' never brought on a memory of suchlike.