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Strings Attached

By Donna Poulton

We Start With Clotheslines,” was the inaugural post on

Image courtesy of Merritt Stites

Hanging clothes is not only a fond memory, but an activity I enjoy today. For me, the experience can be summed up in a word—the smell. Wind-dried clothes take on the personality of the environment; absorbing foremost the aroma of sage, ozone and sunshine - but hints of yarrow, willow branches, Indian paint brush, wild lupine, mint and pine trees are infused in the clothes as well.  Clothes flapping in the Western breeze are like prayer flags signaling your arrival home.

Courtesy of the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

When I thought nothing could get better—it did. APRONS hanging on a clothes line bring up a whole new set of memories, many of them explored in an exhibition hosted by The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Titled Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections, the exhibition started on January 3rd and ends soon…April 3rd, 2011.  Diana Vela notes that aprons were not only the domain of women, but were found on “…chuckwagon cooks, blacksmiths and carpenters.”  The exhibition is told through the stories of three dozen men and women from Mali to America.

Courtesy of the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Through the women, the exhibition explores “what [the aprons] represented to their family;…recipes; values and tradition from gentler, less complicated times;…survival; friendship…challenge…”  Not to be missed if you are in the neighbor hood of Fort Worth, Texas any time soon.

The function of an apron has always been to protect the clothes underneath it.  When clothes had to be hand washed, it was easier to wash and press an apron than a dress. Women usually owned at least one fancy apron with frills for special dinners with guests…

…and then there was the everyday apron. Often made from scraps of material, the everyday apron wasn’t so much a garment…as a tool.

10 Reasons Why My Grandmother Wore an Apron:

1.     It doubled as a pot holder for the hot handles on the wood stove and hot pans

2.     To dry wet hands

3.     The billow of the apron held chips and kindling for the fire, wild flowers from the meadow, mint from along the creek and onions and chard from the garden

4.     It held barley to feed the chickens and supported eggs found in the hen house

5.     The pockets held loose buttons, spare change, reading glasses and a hanky

6.     To wipe children’s noses, tears and dirt smudged hands

7.     To open jars, polish dull flatware and to catch the drip from a milk jar

8.     To hail the postman on the rural route when a letter hadn’t made it to the box on the road

9.     It held clothes pins in the pockets and shirts and socks from the line

10.   To wipe flour from hands that baked bread, soot from handling the fire and the sweat from her brow

Courtesy of

Washing Line. Courtesy of Gary Ernest Smith

Reader Contributions:

Painting by Heidi Darley. Sent to us by Susan Horne

Painting by Stephanie Deer. Sent to us by Stephanie Deer.

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