Wednesday, June 5, 2013


By Marilyn Morris
 "Handy Dandy Retractable Clothesline," the blurb on the package proclaimed. I stopped dead in my tracks at the hardware store. 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.
 "Installs in just minutes with simple tools.” 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 hung my laundry on my New, Handy-Dandy Retractable Clothesline, I thought about my grandma and her clothesline. It stretched from one end of her 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. Grandma stood 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.
            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.

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.
And finally, at the bottom of the basket, came the most dreaded chore: Hanging Grandpa's overalls.

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.
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 gazed in utter astonishment at my immaculately laundered sheets, and towels lying in a tangled heap on the ground. I had evidently failed to latch the pulley mechanism.
 After all these years, I had Knocked Out the Stick.

Marilyn's Bio

I was born in Alpine, Texas in my grandfather's Southern Pacific Railroad section house.  The railroad company soon abandoned this part of the operation, 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,  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. 


Anonymous said...
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Jeri Fink said...

I love your story - I can almost feel the wind blowing through the sheets. I guess our grandkids will never bother with Handy Dandy clotheslines - they just don't make them like they used to!

Thanks for sharing - Jeri

Anonymous said...

Hi Marilyn,

From your title to your last word, this was great--reminds me of my growing-up years too. And I have a good friend near FW I'd love to get you connected with...a writer.

Thanks, Gail Kittleson

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

For the first time in decades we installed a clothesline last week. I love the sight of clothes drying on the line, and their fresh smell. Ahhhh.

Caroline said...

Another wonderful memory, altho it didn't seem like a good thing when helping my mother "hang" the newly washed clothes! And though I don't normally "hang" clothes now, your post gives me a nostalgic feeling to do so. Thanks for bringing a good memory to mind, and btw: interesting bio.

Marilyn said...

Thank you for your comment. It's funny that what we once considered "work" is now in the "nostalgia" category.
Oh, and thanks for the comment on my bio. I had a wonderful time being an army brat, all things considered.