I have always been in favor of energy conservation. It helps the environment and saves you money. When I was young we even had a solar clothes dryer, and that was over fifty years ago. I never did figure out how it worked. There were special metal posts in our backyard that looked something like TV antennas. Wires ran back and forth between the posts, and when wet clothes were hung on the wires, they dried. I think the wires sucked the moisture out of the clothes, or maybe it was magic. I’m not sure—I’ve never been good with high-tech stuff. All I know for sure is it worked best when the sun was shining, so I figure it was solar-powered.
The solar clothes dryer was easy to operate, but had some very definite rules you had to follow:
RULE NUMBER ONE: All underwear will be hung on the inside lines so the neighbors can’t see it. I always wondered what was worse, having the neighbors see our underwear or having the neighbors think we didn’t wear underwear. I’m sure Mr. Orlog, who lived just south of us, would peek out his window. “I don’t see any underwear hanging out there again,” he’d say to his wife. “You don’t think the whole family is going commando do you?” then he’d shudder. Mrs. Orlog would probably shudder too and maybe throw up a little in her mouth.
RULE NUMBER TWO: Do not give your little brother a haircut when your mom is outside hanging clothes on the solar clothes dryer. That’s one of those rules that they don’t tell you about until after you break it, and then they punish you anyway, which I don’t think is fair. I mean, what’s the big deal anyway? It’s just hair. It grew back eventually, and it made him easy to pick out among all the other kids up on stage that night at his school program. As it turns out he’s going bald now anyway, so what did a little early practice at doing a comb-over hurt? I probably did him a favor.
RULE NUMBER THREE: When playing cowboys and Indians, the solar clothes dryer is not to be used as a gallows. This is a rule I wish they had told my older sisters about beforehand. The worst part was they weren’t even punished for breaking the rule. You know how it is, your mom cuts you down and she’s so relieved that you’re still breathing, she completely forgets about rendering justice. I wanted a pound of flesh! I guess it turned out okay. The double vision went away after awhile.
RULE NUMBER FOUR: When being chased in the dark by your oldest sister because of an incident with a bra strap, do not run under the solar clothes dryer without ducking. When a football announcer uses the term clotheslining have you ever wondered where it came from? I can show you. I still have the mark on my neck. It’s right under the one made by the rope.
RULE NUMBER FIVE: Never lick the metal post of the solar clothes dryer in the winter. That includes when your older sister, the mean one, rubs chocolate on it. Not even if she paints it red and white and tells you it’s a giant candy cane. It took a good two weeks for the skin to grow back on my tongue the first time, and almost twice as long some of the other times.
There were other rules, such as: Do not use the wires as a tightrope, and do not tie your little brother to a post and leaving him there, but I think Mom just made those up when she was in a bad mood, because every time she told us about them she was yelling.
IN THE STICKS website
THE WRITING DEPUTY website