Kids today don't know how to have fun; but we knew, back in 1937. Mom's clothesline was a marvelous invention, with top and bottom ropes slung between two pulleys, one attached to the house and the other 20 feet high on a tall elm tree. Pop had put it high so the flapping wash would clear the pole beans in his garden.
Using wooden clothespins, Mom secured a wet sheet over the lower rope and tugged it into the yard, making room for more laundry. The pulleys squealed and the clothes snapped in the breeze like flapping wings on great birds.
The clothesline, when not used by Mom, suggested interesting possibilities. If sheets and pillowcases can be hauled to great heights up the tree, why can't I? Imagine being transported across the entire yard, 20 feet up the elm tree with the birds! My best friend, Freddie Ogden, lived next door and he liked my idea.
Being wiser than I because he was already in kindergarten, Freddie decided he would be the "puller" and I would be the "flyer." That was OK with me, after all, it was my idea.
We lugged out an old wooden chair, put it under the clothesline's lowest point and climbed on. It wobbled on uneven legs. I reached up, grabbed the clothesline and stepped into the air, expecting to find myself dangling there. Instead, the clothesline stretched, and my feet touched the ground.
"Run!" yelled Freddie, not deterred by my standing there instead of hanging in the air. "I'll pull, and when your feet go off the ground, lift them up and you'll go all the way up the tree!" I ran, holding onto the line. Freddie hauled, the pulleys squealed, the clothesline raced upward toward the elm tree and the ground streaked by under me.
I yelled to Freddie to get me in the air soon or I would crash into the hedge that ran across the yard. Mom heard the commotion, looked out the window, dropped a dish on the floor and ran into the yard with her arms out, yelling, desperately, "stop! stop!"
Too late, I was airborne! I lifted my legs, like a bird taking off. Freddie pulled faster, the line stretched, snapped and the clothesline and I collapsed to the ground while Freddie fell off the chair.
I never did clear the hedge, reach the tree or look any birds in the eye. In fact, I had been airborne for only a fraction of a second before the line broke, sending me falling those few inches to the ground.
When Pop came home from work, he shook his head at the ruined clothesline, explained how dangerous it might have been and, trying not to smile, made me promise never to do that again.
He set his tall ladder against the elm tree, climbed up and repaired the clothesline. I watched him working up there, high up the tree where the birds perched, where I still wanted to go.
While Pop put away his tools in the garage I scooted up the ladder, determined to reach the birds one way or another. My big brother reached out a long arm before I had managed two rungs, grabbed me by the collar, hauled me down and advised me that I was already in enough trouble.
"Boy," he told me, seeing in his mind what could have happened, "Are you lucky this isn't Monday!"
"Monday? Why Monday?" I wondered. It wasn't until later that I figured out Monday was wash day. As I said, in those days we knew how to have fun!