Some of my fondest childhood memories — and best life lessons — came from Mom’s clothesline and the loving care she put into tending it.
The lessons were many, and they all revolved around hard work. You see, I was one of seven kids, and we all had to pitch in around the house. No iPods, iPads, video games or cell phones — much less the Internet — back then. If we wanted to play we had to work first, and a lot of that work included that clothesline. In the early years, Mom still washed our clothes with a ringer-washer in the basement. She would load the laundry baskets, and we kids would haul them up the stairs and outside and then hang them on the line. When the clean jeans, shirts and bath towels were stiff as boards, it was time to unclip them, fold them and go back for more.
Dad also pitched in, as the laundry baskets were often too heavy for us kids to carry up the stairs. But Dad’s best clothesline skills were saved for the weeks leading up to our state’s annual gun-deer season. Gun season opened (still does) the Saturday before Thanksgiving. About two weeks before that, Dad would lay claim to the entire clothesline so he could “air out” all of our blaze orange hats, coats, gloves and mittens.
This was the early 1970s and back then it was considered a tactic reserved only for serious deer hunters. Not too many gun-hunters worried about scent control, but those who did were usually the ones who filled a tag or two. And filling a tag was a big deal, because there weren’t that many deer around. To give you some perspective, about only one in seven hunters came home with a deer in those days.
As the years passed, the deer herd grew exponentially and hunting tactics changed. However, our “airing out the orange” became entrenched as a time-honored tradition among not only our family but deer hunters everywhere.
To me, it’s an annual event I look forward to more than just about anything else. Seeing those orange coats hanging from trees, backyard swingsets and garage gutters is something that instantly recharges my batteries.
I’d even go as far as to say I would be awfully depressed if a November came and went without being able to drive around and see Orange Nation preparing for the gun hunt.
Three cheers for gun-deer hunters!
Daniel Schmidt is the editor-in-chief of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine and content director for F+W Outdoors.
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