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Letter: The outdoor clothesline – today’s dodo bird

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Driving in a rural area between the corn and soybean fields not long ago, I viewed a piece of Americana that has all but vanished from the scene … the weekly family laundry drying on an outdoor clothesline.

Automatic washers and dryers now mean families do laundry daily in many cases.

Before that, Monday was an all-day drudgery. A hand-crank wielded by my mother or one of us children did the actual agitating motion. Next came the laborious rinsing in a galvanized tub of cold water. Each garment was then put through a hand operated wringer. 

Wait, there’s more. 

We then carried the heavy wash basket filled with wet clothes out to the clothesline – an integral part of this backbreaking ritual that is almost extinct … like the dodo bird.

Back then, it embarrassed me as a young girl when my undergarments were hanging on our clothesline and the neighborhood boys would tease me about seeing my most personal items of clothing. 

Sheets and blankets drying out there provided a source of fun for children as we played hide-and-seek between them, causing our mothers distress. It probably does not sound like fun to the sophisticated taste of youngsters today with their cellphones, iPads, iPhones, etc. – that is, if they play outdoors at all.

Seeing how people dress now while out jogging or in a health club, I think I was born too soon.

I looked like them long ago. I had to wear long underwear because I had to face a cold northwest wind on my walk to school. Boys often teased me about my underwear when they saw the bulge at my ankles as I tried, (unsuccessfully) to fold the legs inside my socks.     

If you mention the word “clothesline” to a football fan, he will think of a running back or wide receiver putting a stiff arm move on a would-be tackler.

Many city ordinances forbid the use of clotheslines today, and what a pity. Fabric softeners are nice, but no manufacturer has yet duplicated the scent from solar power, plus being fluffed in the summer breeze.

If you were to tell today’s youth about this method of drying our apparel, they might suggest that we have a lot of nerve criticizing the nudity, crass vulgarity and obscenity on TV compared to the days when we hung our unmentionables outdoors for all the world to see.

Mil Misic


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