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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)

TITLE: Clothes-Pinned Garments
By Noreen Ophoff


When I am ancient, around birthday number 80, I’ll be grasping the pins unhooking treasured thoughts pinned to the clothesline in my mind. They'll offer me a solitary meandering through sun-drenched fields, back to how the farm looked when I was a child of five.

On a blazing August morning, rectangular bales of clover and alfalfa anticipated the boys coming to pick them up. The boys were my brother, Don, and neighboring friends. Tim drove our largest red McCormick tractor, inching it slowly along the 1/2 mile field. Steve, on whom I had a huge crush, walked along side the wooden wagon, to throw the bales on. All the teens, including Dave and Petey, took turns standing on the jerking wagon to stack the bales precisely so they wouldn’t topple over on their way back to the red-painted emblem of farm life, with the gleaming metal roof. I wasn’t allowed inside the farming edifice when they stacked the haymow, but I could ride the metal elevator up once and down once, just for fun, before getting out of the way.

I brought them a quart jar of chilled water from the milk cooler, and each young fellow quenched his thirst with noisy, gulping swallows, draining the vessel. Perspiration rivered its way down their faces and throats, running beneath Jim’s blue plaid cotton shirt, or Dick’s white T-shirt streaked with hay flecks and squashed mosquitoes.

There’s not space here to write all the other things I see in the yesteryears of childhood, clipped to the rope, like the orange Allis Chalmers tractor chugging through furrowed rows before planting wheat, me thinking it was “Alice”. I loved to ride beside Daddy on those tractors around our centennial farm, he always drove smoothly, with one big tanned hand on the wheel and the other calloused cup protective of the child, though none of us ever fell off.

A whiff of swine and I am standing at the pen chucking watermelon rinds at the oinkers secretly named for people my sister and I didn’t like that much. I remember the musty smell of the farmhouse basement and how I associate that with paddlepop ice cream treats in summer, because they were kept in the enormous chest freezer down there. Mom walked to meet me after kindergarten in the one-room schoolhouse, and we’d leisurely stroll to the orchard to pick up drops, carrying home the Wolf Rivers for pie, or her favorite eating apple, Jonathans, cuddled in her apron curled up in front. The hayfield guys and their sisters came to play pie tag in the hollow by the brooder coops, in winter’s drifted snow.

How can those times be over? Many of the main characters of my childhood are long dead and buried now. It doesn’t seem so long ago Mom rode Cathy’s bike down the driveway to prove she could ride a two-wheeler. She looked so funny wearing a green-flowered house-dress while perched on the blue Schwinn.

Tuesday’s wagon hauling hay to the barn, on Wednesday might have carried sand to the red sandbox, or newborn calves from the far reaches of our woodlands. The clothesline in my mind holds the sound of Mom winding the rope taunt, the mechanism squeaking on early Saturday mornings. From our upstairs bedrooms we heard her get the wooden clothes poles, hand-hewn by our Dad, out of the garage to prop up the lines to catch the early breezes beneath the maple planted for Aunt Leona’s birthday, October 10, 1904.

I’m not quite an old lady yet, I’ll never be matronly, but I’m not five anymore either. Nowadays I drive by the old homestead where someone else’s fieldcorn is growing, another family’s spacious dwelling is being built on the toboggan hill, and other kids are roaming the hills and meadows catching butterflies, flying kites, giggling while wading in the creek to look for painted turtles, and stretching out on their young backs to see pictures in the clouds.

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Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw07/17/08
creative and profound approach to the topic. Lovely memories, and your ending is precious.
Debbie OConnor07/24/08
This is some beautiful writing, very descriptive, evoking lovely images.