Joel: This expression was difficult to track down, but I think perhaps the following quote of the answer to a reader's question for Acoustic Guitar may spread some enlightenment.
"The use of metaphor and double entendre to describe actions and things has always been common in blues lyrics. Sexual wordplay became especially popular during the early days of recording when the public wanted racy songs but the performers were enjoined from using graphic language in the studio. The sex/work metaphor is prevalent; the most common usage is a reference to "rolling." Literally, "rolling" is moving freight or materials from one place to another. It's repetitive, time-consuming work that requires strength and endurance to do well. Get it? Hauling ashes is what you do after cleaning out a stove or hearth prior to lighting the fire. This suggestive image was used by Sleepy John Estes when he sang, 'You may starch my jumper / Hang it upside your wall / You know by that, baby / I need my ashes hauled.'
Broom dusting is another metaphor entirely, and a poignant one. It refers to sweeping out a domicile before vacating it. (Landlords often ask departing tenants to leave the premises 'broom clean.') The lyric, originally recorded by Kokomo Arnold, was modified by Robert Johnson, who sang,'I'm getting up in the morning / I believe I'll dust my broom . . . / The black man you been loving / Girlfriend, can have my room.'"
From: Dear A.G., February 1997,Acoustic Guitar, PO Box 767, San Anselmo, CA 94979-0767; or to our E-mail address, Acguitar@aol.com
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
Dear (-), From what I can gather no one seems to know the origin of this expression for sure, so all I can do is provide some info I came up with and a few guesses offered by etymologists.
GET ONE’S ASHES HAULED / HAUL ONE’S ASHES
means (of a male) to have sex, copulate and Eric Partridge (Dictionary of Slang
) claims it has been around since the late 19th to early 20th century and originated in Canada. The related expression TO HAUL ONE’S OWN ASHES
means to masturbate.
The earliest quotes that I could find were contained in blues songs of the 1930s (see below), which suggest the female vagina was the ‘ash can,’ but that might just have been an after-the-fact interpretation or usage by the song’s author.
R. W. Holder in How Not to Say What You Mean
offers that the imagery of the extraction of matter (ashes are ‘hauled’) from the small door of the furnace which is red and glowing within (hmm! what ever could that be?). He also says the ‘haul’ had the additional meaning in those days of ‘harm another physically,’ which was a common image where male copulation was concerned – “whence, ‘hauled,’ having copulated, usually extramaritally.”
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
suggests the possibility that the ‘ash’ is just a mispronunciation of ‘arse/ass.’ Holder in ‘How Not To Say What You Mean’
Neither of these explanations is overly convincing, and as that old Peggy Lee song goes, “Is that all there is?” Well that’s all I could come up with.
<circa 1930 "She said I could HAUL HER ASHES better than any other man, she said I could sow my seed anytime in her ash can.” from the song ‘Ash Can Blues’ by Bob Clifford>
<1934 “I worked all winter and I worked all fall, I've gotta wait until spring to GET MY ASHES HAULED."— from the song ‘Tired As I Can Be’ by Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan)>
<“I pop in a red, get a little shot, you GET YOUR ASHES HAULED. Same dif (Diehl, 1978, or, in translation, ‘I like self-induced narcosis, you prefer sexual promiscuity—it’s a matter of taste’)”—in ‘How Not to Say What You Mean’ by Holder>
<“There is ‘nobody who can HAUL MY ASHES LIKE YOU”—internet>
Ken G – April 24, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)