Ahhhhh…..that feeling of crawling into bed with clean sheets that have been dried on the clothesline. They smell like the fresh air and sunshine! Wait, isn’t that a dryer sheet commercial?!?
When I was little I remember wanting to be big enough to hang out clothes on the line for my Nanny. The easy to reach clothespin bucket was hung on the line and scooted down as Nanny hung out towels first, then washcloths, undies, shirts and jeans all in neat, well organized rows. But I wasn’t tall enough to reach the line when I wanted to be able to help. Then when I was tall enough and it was my “have to” chore…..like most jobs it wasn’t quite as much fun as I imagined. But having the clothes dried on the line was worth it!
But our clothesline had other uses besides drying underwear. In the summer it was used to hang homemade beetle traps. We had chestnut trees in the yard close to the line and apparently they attracted lots of beetles. If I remember right the traps consisted of a jug or jar with a hole on top and partially filled with water. Nanny hung it on the clothesline and the beetles would crawl in and drown. There was nothing worse than when you took the clothes off the line and a big old Japanese beetle, that had been hanging out sunning itself on a towel, decided to attach itself to you. Ewwww.
About once a year the clothesline was also turned into a tool for a mini chicken slaughter facility. Not far from the clothesline was a small chicken house where Nanny kept layers in cages that were hung on the wall. They were watered and fed in small troughs and when they laid an egg it would roll into a tray below them. If the old hen was crafty or the egg didn’t roll just right you might have to stick your hand under her to retrieve it and hope you didn’t get pecked. This was another job that I wanted when I was little but when it became my chore…..not as much fun. Funny how that works.
Anyway, when the chickens got older and quit laying Nanny would order more chickens for the coop and we would eat the old hens. This is definitely not one of my favorite memories because I was pretty little and the sound and sight of the headless chickens were pretty scary.
Aunt Opal and Uncle Tom usually came to help us but because of my young age I wasn’t asked to help so I just stayed out of the way and watched. Nanny would get one of the old hens, put her neck on a block and quickly chop her head off with a small hatchet. Then they would hang the flopping, headless hens upside down on the clothesline to bleed out and not ruin the meat. If one of the hens escaped after the head chop they would actually run around the yard for a few minutes. Yep, still remembering it creeps me out.
But however scary that was for a little girl, I still understood that those hens were going to help feed my family for the winter. A concept that, in this day and age, is being forgotten or ignored.
I grew up on a farm in a rural mountain community. We had a garden, we drank fresh milk and cream from our cows, we ate beef, chicken, and pork from animals that we raised. My granddaddy taught me to fish and we would have fresh mountain trout rolled in cornmeal and fried for supper. I learned to hunt. I was taught the importance of good animal husbandry and to respect all the animals for what they give to us.
To me, the name of this article is much more than just a cute line. It represents the hard work of tough mountain people who took what they had and provided for their families. It also represents those who taught me how to use and respect all the wonderful things that God provides for us.