The Neighbors’ Clothesline

clotheslineWe’ve been using the neighbors’ clothesline for 20 years. My husband and I are clothesline people. Nothing compares to the sweet smell of clean clothes hung on the line, particularly bed sheets, pillow cases, T-shirts, and towels.

For some items I draw the line. I do not hang up socks or underwear. That’s too much work and nobody needs to see that much of our business.

We had our own clothesline on our little Iowa farmette in the early 1990s and we used it year-round. Blue jeans and cloth diapers can be hung out to dry, even on cold winter days. They’ll dry eventually.

When we moved to town it was to a little house that was not clothesline equipped. However, our gentlemanly next-door neighbor had a four-line clothesline in his backyard, right next to our garage. It was solidly constructed — two iron T posts set deep in the ground some 26 feet apart. We asked him if we could use it. We said we didn’t mean to impose; we were just wondering if we could use it until we could put up a clothesline of our own. He replied that we could use it as long as we wanted, since no one had used it for several years, not since his wife had died. So use it we did, for the next 10 years until after he died and his house was sold.

When the new neighbors, an elderly couple, moved in, we explained our previous neighborly clothesline arrangement and we inquired about their clothesline intentions. They said they weren’t planning to air their laundry, so we could continue to use the clothesline.

Hanging clothes on the line appeals to me, partly from an energy saving perspective, but more so because of my rural heritage. There is a rhythm to it that satisfies. Take the clean, damp clothes out of the washing machine and put them in a clothes basket. Haul the basket up the basement stairs and through the kitchen. Grab the bag of clothespins from the hook on the back porch wall and head to the back yard. One by one hang the items on the line. Be sure to stagger the sheets so they don’t get tangled in each other as the wind blows.

Our neighbors have been talking about downsizing to a smaller place. If and when that comes to pass, I hope we can make another deal with the next set of neighbors. Or else we’ll finally have to build a clothesline of our own.

Laura Sternweis

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