Saturday, October 10, 2009

When it comes to clotheslines debate, old timers and environmentalists make strange bedfellows

Read Ian Urbina's story in today's New York Times, "Debate Follows Bill to Remove Clothesline Ban." The dateline is Canton, Ohio, which at population 76,738, is not a rural or nonmetropolitan place, though this story may nevertheless have a rural angle. The quote that follows is from Canton resident Jill Saylor:
I figured trailer parks were the one place left where hanging your laundry was actually still allowed,” she said, standing in front of her tidy yellow mobile home on an impeccably manicured lawn.

But she was wrong. Like the majority of the 60 million people who now live in the country’s roughly 300,000 private communities, Ms. Saylor was forbidden to dry her laundry outside because many people viewed it as an eyesore, not unlike storing junk cars in driveways, and a marker of poverty that lowers property values.
So, I hadn't thought much about trailer parks being "private communities," but indeed they are. What I have thought (and written) some about is clotheslines in relation to rurality. Read my earlier post here. Urbina's story even hints at the link with this comment: "Driven in part by the same nostalgia that has restored the popularity of canning and private vegetable gardens, the right-to-dry movement has spawned an eclectic coalition." That coalition includes younger, pro-environment folks and "older folks who remember a time before clotheslines became synonymous with being too poor to afford a dryer.”

In any event, this story reminds me of the lesser degree of regulation (public or private) associated with rural places. That lack of regulation--often reflecting an enhanced respect for private property--can result in junk cars and such not only in driveways, but in yards. Such attitudes would seem to make clotheslines less a bone of contention in rural places, but maybe not. Urbina mentions that, in Verona, Mississippi, population 3,334, one neighbor shot and killed another last year in a dispute over none other than a clothesline!

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