by Jean Gordon

Clothes lines and clothes pins — for most folks a thing of the past.

A cheer a long time ago in elementary school, “wash ‘em out, ring ‘em out, hang ‘em on the line . . . we can beat the Tornadoes any old time” wouldn’t mean much to today’s young student.

For some folks, perhaps even today, hanging clothes on the line is one of those things in life that’s just too good to turn loose of forever. But for others dragging wet clothes away from the comforts of the wash room to a line outside the house is unthinkable. 

Remember those days?

I wonder how young children today would feel about carrying an arm load of wet clothes thrown across their shoulders to an outside clothes line so their taller parents could complete the chore.

Once upon a time I was young and short. Today, I’m old but still short. But I remember standing at our clothes line with one arm stretched to retrieve our clothes from my mother. But it wasn’t minutes later before it was a two-arm load of heavy, stiff clothes.

We never had one of those fancy clothes pin sacks. Some people I knew actually had the clothes pin sack that stayed out at the line all the time. We put our clothes pins in our pockets and usually dropped them on the ground and then had to clean them off before mother would dare use them.

From the looks of most manicured lawns these days, I’d say not many people hang their clothes out to dry. I have seen clothes drying on the line upon occasion, but it is a rare sight.

When a friend got married many years ago she and her husband didn’t own a clothes dryer, only a washing machine. She hated everything about clothes line drying. She didn’t like the stiffness or the work of carrying the clothes from the house to the yard, so she didn’t. That was her husband’s job. Two months later the couple made a marriage saving purchase, a clothes dryer.

I remember an aunt of mine never used a clothes dryer. She even hung clothes on the line in the winter. There were some winters, she said back then, when her children’s diapers were hung on the line, even in the snow. For as long as I remember she used a clothes line even in her senior years.

It’s been a long time since I heard anyone say they had to rush home to get the clothes off the line because there was a storm coming.  

I don’t miss bringing in the heaps of clothes from the line and dumping them on a bed for the massive folding chore for a family of six.

But I will admit, there was not another feeling quite like bringing the sun-warmed sheets and blankets from the line and burying your head in them, wallowing around in the aroma of fresh air-dry clothes.  

These past weeks have been tough on everyone. Hopefully it will not be long before this part of our life is over. But until then, enjoy the blessings of outdoors. Walk around, take a hike, ride a bicycle, eat meals outside  — all while practicing social distancing— and maybe, just maybe, try taking the clothes out to dry just one more time.  

We certainly have the time. Our children and grandchildren have no idea about the sheer thrill of zig-zagging in and out fresh air, sun dried sheets.

Jean Gordon is an award winning journalist and spent 48 years covering news in Rutherford County, her home.