Unwilling bachelor works with clothesline, branches

Burt’s Eye View

The other day as I was hanging my laundry on the line …

What? You didn’t expect a guy to know how to hang clothes? Or to bother?

Since my wife passed away in June, I’ve rediscovering lots of skills that many guys won’t admit to knowing.

I was fortunate in marriage. Since I don’t follow recipes, don’t “properly” sort clothes, and I stack the dishes the “wrong” direction in the drainer, Terry barred me from doing any of those chores.

She tried to stay calm. But her sensibilities finally exploded. “No, no, no, the tag on the fitted sheet goes on the bottom right of the bed. How can you not know the right way to do things?”

I suspect there are a lot of other husbandly “screw-ups” out there too.

I swear I wasn’t trying to get kicked out on purpose. It doesn’t matter now. I have the opportunity to do it my way. Or hers. Or any other way. Because if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

Fortunately, Mom taught all three of her boys basic housekeeping skills. She had little faith that we boys would attract wives anytime soon.

(When even your own mother doesn’t consider you marriage material …)

Mom also knew that with the changing times, if we did happen to marry, it might not be to the kind of woman who believes it’s the wife’s job to cook, clean and do laundry.

But Mom was taught by women who lived during The Great Depression, and raising three boys, a girl, a dog, 22 barn cats, eight cows, an ancient Allis-Chalmers tractor and a husband didn’t alleviate her fears of poverty. So she always scrimped.

If the cookie recipe called for one bag of chocolate chips, Mom used a half bag and set the other half aside for the next batch of cookies. If we had the luxury of store-bought spaghetti sauce for a pasta dinner, Mom always added a jar of water to the sauce pan. It was like having TWO jars of spaghetti sauce — but quite runny.

One of the first things I did when I went off to college was to bake cookies with a full ration of chocolate chips and fix myself a spaghetti dinner with THICK sauce! It’s that kind of wastefulness that made our parents know colleges with their liberal attitudes could not be trusted.

When Mom hung laundry, she always overlapped the corner of one article of clothing with the corner of the next thing on the line, and clipped one clothespin to both. “Another bag of clothespins would cost money that we didn’t have, so just do it this way, Burton William.”

Mom’s grandmother also hung laundry by type, size and color. It had to be pleasing to the eye.

If any passer-by is slowing down to study the placement of my boxer shorts, they need a new hobby. Or if they have a needle and thread, they could stare a lot longer while they patch rips and tears. Mom didn’t have the patience to teach me how to sew.

I still do that overlapping clothes thing. Mom didn’t tell me where to buy more clothespins. But I did run out of clothesline strung between trees. I figured out this part on my own: I started sling shirts, pants and towels over any available branch.

Terry would be so embarrassed. But I wear clean, dry clothes — with the occasional tree bark adornments.

It’s time to bake cookies. And there’s no one to stop me from using TWO bags of chips!

Hang more chocolate chips on Burt’s line at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.


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