Recently, my friend Marcia posted a photo of a clothesline on Facebook and asked if anyone still uses one. I responded, well, yes, I do.
Actually I never owned a dryer until the kids were out of diapers, except for a very brief time in Seattle, where it is too damp to hang clothes even on sunny days. (And then there were the times we didn’t own a washer and I had to haul the clothes in a cart to the Laundromat.) It would have been handy having one to dry cloth diapers and all the clothes six kids wear. Instead, I hung them on a pulley line.
It was rough in the winter. I stood on the back stoop to hang them barehanded since gloves would have gotten wet. The clothes froze the first day and were dry the second. I did use wooden racks to hang some of the clothes near the wood stove.
I captured that experience in one of my novels, Northern Comfort. This is how the book begins: “Willi Miller pinned her best blouse to the rope line. She shook her bare hands to keep the blood moving before she reached into the plastic basket for another. She should have done this miserable chore before she went to work this morning, but she didn’t have the time.”
Willi is dirt poor, and what happens to her and her young son during the next several pages turns tragic.
But that is strictly fiction.
After a hiatus, Hank and I have taken to hanging clothes again. He installed the clothesline a year after we moved here. We used it for a while, and then fell into the habit of throwing clothes into the dryer. Now we are thinking about saving energy and money.
Also I have a good role model for hanging clothes. My 91-year-old mother still does it. The pulley reaches the bathroom window so she can hang them from inside and let the clothes sail into the sunny part of the yard.
There is an art to hanging clothes: giving them a good shake and pinning them so the fabric doesn’t stretch. (My mother gave me some pointers on that last part.) I check the pockets carefully and separate the potentially fuzzy whites from the dark clothing.
With about 340 days of sunshine in Northern New Mexico, it is silly not to use the sun to dry our clothes. Besides I have a great view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when I do this not-so-miserable chore.