The Bandera Courier
Bandera Courier
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2015-01-15

The clothesline

Carolyn B. Edwards

You just don't see clotheslines very much any more. Even those of us who love the scent of clean clothes dried in the sun only use the line occasionally, relying almost exclusively on the dryer.
The clothesline I grew up with ran for about 30 yards out between the house and the barn. Three taut wire lines stretched from wooden T-supports, one on each end and one in the middle. While the end supports were fixed in the ground, the center one was loose and could be adjusted to raise and lower the lines a bit.
That way, a child could help with pinning up the wet clothes and take it in when it was dry, while longer pieces, like the bed sheets, could be raised up high enough not to sweep the ground.
There are those who find clotheslines unsightly. I'm not one of those. A line of clean clothes waving in the sunlit breezes looks just fine to me.
In those days when the mom was almost exclusively tasked with the housekeeping chores and didn't go out to work, one day a week was set aside for laundry. We did laundry almost always on Mondays. Only bad weather changed the schedule.
We washed our clothes in homemade lye soap, which, coupled with very hot water, got our whites really white. For those who have not experienced it, lye soap is imagined to be unpleasant, but in fact, it just gave our clothes a clean scent. Coupled with a few hours of sunlight, the soap created a sensual pleasure that demanded holding a clean, dry towel to the face and breathing deeply.
There were little tricks to hanging the clothes properly so that folding and ironing time was minimized. We always hung the shirts upside down to avoid having those little dimples from the pins in the shoulders.
It's hard these days to find good quality clothes pins. Modern pins are barely strong enough to use to clip a bag of chips closed. Good pins lasted for years and would hold a dress on the line in the stiffest March wind. I still have pins Mom used for years. They must be 60 years old or more.
We paid attention to the weather on laundry day. Sometimes a sudden shower sent every available person rushing out to get all the clothes in before it got soaked.
A strong blue norther chuffing across the coastal plain could blow poorly pinned underwear and jeans out into the cornfield.In the depths of winter, those jeans were often brought in frozen stiff to be lined up to thaw in front of the woodstove in the dining room.