The task of pulling dead leaves and accumulated bird muck out of the edges and drainpipes of our roof always falls on a Sunday afternoon. I'm not quite sure why that's the tradition but for some reason Dad always does his manly duties when the sun is high and the memory of church is not yet dim. Maybe the sermon about God's Holy Fire sparks the memory of the gutters, and the sure knowledge in Daddy's mind that any true Christian will not be caught in the Second Coming with clogged water spouts.
It's always so strange to watch Dad as he pulls on his oldest, dirtiest shoes and his beat up Ben Davis jeans. (He doesn't own blue jeans - all his work pants are variations of gray and brown.) He drags the rickety old ladder that we have out of the garage and leans it against the house, but it's so rickety that ever since Kenny and I were old enough to manage the telephone he's had at least one of us stationed beneath, prepared to dial 9-1-1 should he fall off. The other child hands him the hose and turns the water on and off so Daddy doesn't have to get off the ladder. I suppose if there had been three children the third would be able to hold the ladder for safety, but Mommy and Daddy just weren't that productive.
It's pretty simple. Daddy threads the hose in the different rain gutters and blasts the water over the roof tiles, and waves of muddy gunk fly off in all directions, splattering anyone foolish enough to stand directly beneath. After the initial tidal wave from the hose, Daddy has to dig in with his hands and pull out handfuls of rotten leaves and bugs and flower petals the the occasional candy wrapper. (We don't know how those get there, but there's always a few.) If we're doing the gutters by the spiky-ball trees (I don't know the real names...but they have white bark, large green leaves, and one-inch diameter spiked balls that the seeds come out from) then Daddy spends ten minutes minimum pulling little black golf balls (they look like little incarnations of HATE!!) and tossing them into a nasty little smelly pile on the ground. Slime and sludge cover his clothes, my dad's clothes, my father who normally does no gardening or home maintenance - we are the type that hire other people to do that. It's very weird to see him digging deeper and deeper into the grime, atop that trembling aluminum ladder.