Clotheslined

As a child just as now, I lived in the country. Now I can see the neighbor’s homes from out house although the nearest is just under half a mile away. On the farm we lived on a wooded road where we could not see any other houses albeit the William’s house on a hill on the other side of the block. It was a secluded peaceful place to have a farm.Our lawn, just like all the other neighbor’s was large and spacious.

When I was a little girl my mother had several places to hang laundry. We had small clotheslines on our porch, later there was a 3 stringer in the back of the house running from the house to the shed. The one I remember most was the really long one in the front of the house that ran from farm strength eye screws stretching from the house out to the cottonwood tree and back again. Dad kept it taut and it was able to hold up the lines full of sheets, overalls, aprons, pillowcases, blankets and anything else my mother would dlip to it.

The neighbor would drive past on his tractor when bailing hay and stop and tell her, “Ruthie, you are either the cleanest family I know or the dirtiest. I never saw so much laundry!” If you know my mom then you would know that we were both.

On afternoons when there were breaks in chores, the neighborhood boys would come over and play football on our lawn in front of the barn. My brothers are older than I am. Jack is 11 years older and Chuck is 6 years older. When the boys came over I was to stay out of the way. The boys came on bikes and to my delight they also came on ponies. That is because sometimes two of the boys, Gary and Kenny, would bring their little sister, Terry. There weren’t very many children in the neighborhood that lived close to us that were girls my age. Although Terry is a few years younger she made the perfect friend to distract me and get me out of the hair of the big boys. I am pretty sure that her mother sent her over for the same.

Gary and Kenny came over on Shetland ponies with Terry doubled up with one of them. Sometimes they came over with one pony or one kid and no sister. This time I had hit the jackpot! This also meant that Terry and I could ride around the yard on the ponies while the boys played.

Terry was brought up with horses like my brother Jack. I was not encouraged to go by any horse Jack had or ride his horse. I was told that any horse he had was temperamental and to just stay away. So, when Terry came over with these little beauties I felt and my mom felt it was a safer version for me to ride alone.

I was so happy to have a mate to play with and you can imagine how fun it was to have something fun to do. Our main idea that day was to trot and gallop around the perimeter of the house in an ever increasing speed. The clothesline was just part of the obstacle that made me think we were daredevils. First we went between the lilac bush and the house, then could we go between the pine and the lilac bush and get the curve around the back of the house and race past the lp tank in the yard?

The clothesline was always part of the obstacle and we didn’t think about it much as it was just something we had to duck to clear before we got the the lilac bush. Terry was in front of me and easily ducked under the clothesline. Suddenly I must have been distracted by a hoot from the older boys on a touchdown and I forgot to duck. The clothesline caught me under the chin and swept me back while the pony raced on. I landed with a thump and remember not being about to breathe. I remember that when I got it together I called out for Chuck although Terry might have beat me to it. The boys came running, my mom came out of the house and as you might expect, had to get back on the horse. That is what you do when you are knocked down.

I got to see Terry last night and that experience now makes us both laugh, smile and know that we come from part of the same world. Nice. Really nice.

Dave

Last night I learned that an old high school friend had died. I know. Seems too young for that. I didn’t want to let too much time go past without writing about him. He was really a nice guy. He used to sit in front of me in Mr. Newhouse’s history class. We might have been in the same math class for underachievers in Math, but I was so mortified that I was going next to Chemistry II and Biology II from dummy Math that I was trying to be invisible. We were seated alphabetically by last name. We are from a small town and an even smaller high school graduating class. There were 92 of us. I knew who he was, but never really talked. We had gone to different elementary schools and were filtered into different sections of the horrendous 6th grade year….I think we were in different 6th grade rooms…you know I was so wrapped up in myself and figuring out how someone who is 11 and 12 is supposed to be in the world that I really lost anything outside of 6 feet on either side of myself. So we never really talked until that history class.  Thanks Mr. Newhouse.

Dave smelled like cigarette smoke. Sometimes his pack fell out of his jacket on the back of his chair and I would snatch it up and quickly underhand pass it to him. Those were the days when the teachers ran to the teacher’s lounge between classes to get a few puffs and then in my Biology teacher’s case, pop a Hall’s lozenge before the next class started. The smoke would billow out of the lounge behind the last running English teacher who sprinted back to College Prep.

Those were the days when the students would congregate outside to smoke at lunch or between classes. This was by the outside doors at the end of the hall near the Accounting and Home-Ec rooms. I was not a smoker myself, but had a few childhood friends that were in that group, plus my best friend’s locker was 5 lockers away from the door and got to see who was out there smoking by being at her locker. The smoke followed them in at the bell and I probably stared. I was so naive and they were the kids that I was a little bit scared of or liked. Some I had gone all the way through school with so I knew what some of them looked like with cat-eye glasses and short hair. Some of them had bad reputations, some of them were trying to get a reputation and some were just trying to find some people to be friends with….just like everyone else. Dave was in there with his really nice girl friend.

Every week Mr. Newhouse would have this current news game that was on a film strip. We were teamed up. That was my THING and I LOVED it. It was finally something I could OWN and Dave always wanted to be on my team. No one ever wanted to be on any team I was on and I never was good at team sports until there was this. As the weeks went on we would talk some and laugh about things in class. Dave told me that I was smart and funny. He seemed surprised. Me too. I was surprised that someone would say that, especially a guy in our high school. That was such a nice thing to hear. I noticed that he would have these drawings on his notebooks, paper margins and book covers. Really good drawings and I told him that they were, in those days “very cool”.

We didn’t hang out in the same group unless we were in History class and I didn’t really see Dave until many years later in the Pig grocery store. We would say hello and ask how each other was doing. I asked how his sweet wife was and once I mentioned that I had his daughter in a class that I was a substituting in. She was also really nice and I noticed her right away because she reminded me of her mom. I asked him if he ever saw anyone from our class and he said that he saw a few, but mostly I was the only one that talked to him. Why wouldn’t they? He was a little shy at times. Such a nice person. Never made fun of me. Never talked down to me, was kind and funny. What’s not to like?

I ran into him a few years back at an Omro street dance and we talked for hours out in back of the fire barn. We talked about what we were doing and he told me how he got to paint lettering on boats out in the marina. He told me about how the rocking of the boat made it a challenge and a joy. We talked about how classmates were getting on and what life was like for us. He talked about his Halloween display and how he goes all out to decorate and invited my husband and I to stop over and take a look. We did end up going over to see his yard the week of Halloween. As most people know, I don’t enjoy Halloween, but I enjoy someone who has used their creativity and imagination to make a different world. His yard was full of surprises and had real beauty in the lighting and the care of each spot. It was delightful.

A few years later I was at my desk at Job 1 and there was an older man painting some trim up on a ladder in my department. He must have looked at me and noticed an older woman sorting books and checking emails. That is when I heard, “Hi, Jane!” I looked up to see my old friend Dave as the older man on the ladder. We got to talk a bit and catch up while each of us did our jobs. It was nice to see him again. His detail work was spot on.

This last year I got to talk to him at length after what was our 40th Class Reunion. He didn’t attend ever and I did go to this one. I got him up to date on who had attended and what everyone was up to. We argued good naturedly about who was married to whom and decided in the end that he was right. We laughed about that. We talked about how he was worried about his health and I was worried about mine. We shared cholesterol numbers and the effect of statins, how they made us so sore we couldn’t move and  kicked them out of our drug regime. We talked about our brothers who were once friends in school. We talked about his dad dieing younger. We talked about how fast the time flies. We talked about how great grandchildren are. We talked about looking forward to meeting up at Job 1 or at a random street dance again sometime. We said how nice it was to talk again and wished each other well.

I’ll think of you hand painting lettering on those rocking boats in the marina, calling me smart and funny and telling me how great your grandchildren are. See you when my chores are through.