Feb. 24--The crisis erupted on a chill Saturday afternoon. Sitting in what passes for the office in our 200-year-old hillside home, I could distinctly hear the cry of anguish well up from the stone cellar.
The clothes dryer, it seems, had just given up the ghost, and had the sheer audacity to do so while my significant other was drying a load of towels.
The depth of this emergency was such that, given her sense of despair, the world as we knew it was about to end.
That sense of despair, however, was only exacerbated by my proposed immediate solution to the problem: Putting up a clothesline.
That went over like that load of wet towels at issue being tossed unceremoniously in my lap. A clothesline? She simply wouldn't hear of such a thing. Such things simply were not done in tiny Georgetown. What, after all, would the neighbors think?
I pondered this, briefly. "Neighbors" is a relative term in the high orchard country, and I was fairly certain most of them were familiar with, or had at least heard of, clotheslines.
Besides, what they thought of a clothesline in my backyard was a matter of supernatural indifference.
So began my attempt to appeal to her sense of history, of tradition, of that glorious experience of climbing into bedsheets that had been dried and textured by the big clothesdryer in the sky, Mister Sun.
Sensing an historic moment looming -- complete with a significant drop in our outlandish electric bill -- I quickly pointed out the opportune position of two venerable apple trees in the backyard and how easy it would be to string one, two, or even three such lines over the lawn.
Why, I was ready at that very moment to dash to The Home Depot to purchase the requisite hardware along with boxes galore of wooden clothespins. As I pleaded, I could imagine bedsheets, pillows, underwear and any variety of clothes waving gloriously in the sunshine days to come.
Fat chance of that, brother.
Still, not dissuaded, I launched into the tales of helping my grandmother as she worked expertly with that old Westinghouse wringer-washer; of toting heavy baskets of laundry up from her cellar out into the waiting sunlit morning; of handing her, one-by-one. those magnificently simple wooden clothespins, the remainders of which would be used to make any number of toys.
Of how, on sunny Monday mornings (Monday was always "wash day") on the Illinois flatlands, entire blocks were festooned with clotheslines bearing waving sheets in a day-long festival of the sun.
Of course, there was that glorious smell and texture that came from bedclothes dried in the bright outside air, be it summer or winter.
Here, I pleaded, was a chance to recapture those sights -- and smells -- of old; how very much in keeping with the age of the homestead on which we dwell.
But so much for history; so much for tradition. Seems a preemptive trip to Best Buy was considered, by far, the preferred solution to the clothes-drying crisis. And in due time, the big truck arrived, with two big delivery men, who, in a matter of minutes, dragged the old dryer up the stairs and away, to be replaced by a brand spanking new electricity hog.
But I refuse to let my vision of a backyard alive with sheets of many colors celebrating a sunlit day, die on the line -- so to speak.
So while the new dryer tumbles on this coming weekend, I'll be off to Home Depot for some necessary supplies -- which, of course, will include a roll of clothesline and, oh, yes, several dozen clothespins, the old, wooden kind.
William Parkinson is a copy editor at The Sentinel. He has spent 40 years at newspapers, the Associated Press and United Press International in this country and abroad. He's mad about cats -- and words. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays in The Sentinel.