Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hanging Out

Hanging Out

Today's Guest is Marilyn Celeste Morris

"Handy Dandy Retractable Clothesline" the blurb on the package proclaimed.  Modern machines are wonderful, I thought as I stopped dead in my tracks at the hardware store, but sometimes a gal just wants to hang the white stuff out to dry --- sheets and pillowcases and other white things simply cry out for a clothesline.  Homes today do not automatically come with a clothesline in the back yard, as they did in the Olden Days -- I had a clothesline when my kids were in diapers, and I loved it.  (The clothesline, I mean, not that my kids were in diapers.)  But I digress.  We were in praise of clotheslines and I was in search of one I could Do (It) (Your) myself.)

"Installs in just minutes with simple tools.  Saves Energy."  Fine, I thought.  I'm all for saving energy.  But I wasn't too sure about the "Installs in just minutes with simple tools."  I am, shall we say, “technologically challenged.”  Nonetheless, I began, and soon, with the help of a hammer, screwdriver, a lot of sweating and, unfortunately, a lot of swearing, I had not one, but two clotheslines stretching from the corner of the house to the fence. 

As I washed a load of clothes and hung them outside on my New, Handy-Dandy Retractable Clothesline, I thought about my grandma and her clothesline.

Boy, did Grandma have a clothesline.  It stretched from one end of West Texas Back Yard to Infinity, its sagging middle propped up by a long wooden stick jabbed in the rock hard dirt.  All the visiting grandchildren quickly learned to avoid The Stick as we raced in and out of the billowing sheets, towels and Grandma's voluminous "bloomers."  Occasionally, however, some cousin or two would knock the prop loose and send all the clean laundry tumbling to the ground.  For sure, we were all in trouble, and Grandma would stand over us until we had gathered every last stitch for a re-washing, and whoever was responsible for Knocking out the Stick was royally shunned, and especially suspect on wash days.

Wash Days were always on Monday.  I have often wondered, “Where is it written that all laundry should be done on Mondays?” Does the phrase "Blue Monday” have anything to do with the "bluing" substance added to the white clothes rinse water? 

Grandma made sure that various and sundry kids, aunts and an uncle all had their part in this chore.   As I recall, a male cousin was responsible for building the large open fire in the back yard and placing the large black kettle over the fire. Several of us trudged to the well and carried back seemingly endless buckets of water.  Next, we carefully shaved a large cake of lye soap into the boiling water, a job I particularly avoided, since lye soap will take the skin right off your hands.  I preferred instead the job of stirring the mixture with a broom handle.  Swish, swish, I stirred as vigorously as my young arms could manage.  This stirring job became more difficult, however, as Grandpa's heavy work clothes were added; then I relinquished the stirring to a larger cousin or two. 

Rinsing came next, in a galvanized washtub, and wringing the clothes by hand took great determination, if not actual strength.

If we thought wringing the laundry was hard, so was the actual hanging the laundry on the clothesline.  We quickly assumed a rhythm, all of us grandchildren:  bend, select laundry, reach, pin, move the pin bag, bend, select, reach, pin, move the pin bag. I liked hanging the white sheets and towels, which would later become great hiding places from my unruly cousins. 

Almost as much fun to see hanging on the clothesline were Grandma's voluminous "bloomers," which, when filled with a strong West Texas wind, tended to act as much a sail as the sheets, and seemingly almost as large.  And finally, at the bottom of the basket, came the most dreaded chore:  Hanging Grandpa's overalls.

I prayed for a mild breeze, or no breeze at all, because Grandpa's overalls, besides being heavy when wet, sported huge metal buckles, which, even in the slightest breath of air, slapped at my face and arms.  I considered it a huge accomplishment to have hung the laundry without sustaining major damage to my body. 

Washing completed, we grandchildren celebrated by racing in and hiding among the pristine sheets, the flapping towels and yes, even the billowing bloomers, inhaling the clean, fresh smell.

Returning to reality, I stood back and gazed at my laundry firmly attached to my new Handy Dandy Retractable Clothesline and pronounced it Good.  Thrilled with my accomplishment, I resumed my other weekend chores inside the house, returning later to bring in the laundry. 

I had evidently failed to latch the pulley mechanism.  I gazed in utter astonishment at my immaculately laundered sheets, towels and -- bloomers -- lying in a tangled heap on the ground. 

After all these years...I had Knocked Out the Stick. 

 A Little Bit About Me: 
I was born in Alpine, Texas in my grandfather's Southern Pacific Railroad section house.  The railroad company soon abandoned this part of the operations, so I was left without a "permanent" home. At the age of eight, I received my very own orders from The War Department to journey to Seoul, Korea, to join my father in the US Occupation Forces. We were isolated in a military compound with little to do, so I turned my attention to writing.  My next overseas assignment was for three years in Linz, Austria. Out of these experiences sprang my first novel, The Women of Camp Sobingo and  my autobiography,of sorts, Once a Brat, Always a Brat, described as part memoir, part therapy session. Other books quickly followed, as I retired from Corporate America, and at last I could do what I always felt I was born to do: Write. 
I am single, live in Fort Worth TX and have three grown children and five grands. 

Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author, Editor and SpeakerFive novels, two non fiction books. All available on 
and at 
Vanilla Heart Publishing:: And now, free reads first four chapters of all my books: 


................................ Kevin Parsons said...

Those really WERE the good old days. Now our HOA forbids outside clotheslines, keeping our neighborhood pristine and- sadly- sterile.
Some people love fluffy towels from the dryer, but crispy fresh and clean towels feel great!
And good job on the install.

TNeal said...

We don't have a clothesline but our neighbor let's us use hers. Wisconsin's hitting the teens now so it'll be a while before laundry goes outside again. But it sure smells better coming off the clothesline rather than out of the dryer.

J.B. DiNizo said...

Thanks for the memories! I recall my mother and grandmother's washing days and hanging our laundry on clothes lines, inside ones if it rained. Everything was done according to the day of the week, like it or lump it! :-)

Marilyn said...

Ah, the memories. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to help my mother by doing the laundry when she wasn't home. When she arrived home, she stared at the multi-colored or bleached-out clothes on the line, some of them ruined.She was touched by my thoughtful gesture, but lectured me sternly to never do the laundry again. Now I remember and smile.
Thank you for this wonderful post.