I was looking around for a piece of string the other day to seal a paintbrush in a plastic bag so I could use it again. I found a ball of twine in a box of seldom-used odds and ends. It probably sat there, unappreciated for months. We don’t use string much these days. Or rope, either, for that matter. But both were once vital to everyday life.
We used it all the time when I was a kid. A ball of string was in the kitchen, in the garage and I had one in my room. Mom wrapped our sandwiches in wax paper and tied them with string. It was the same thing the butcher did when you went to the grocery store; the meat purchases were wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string from a giant ball on a spool, right there on top of the counter. No plastic bag problems in those days. No plastic bags.
Kids couldn’t live without string. We needed it to make a bow from an unseasoned tree limb. How else could we play cowboys and Indians? Fix a yoyo with a broken string? Fly a kite? String was the thing. You needed it to pull out a loose baby tooth, tie one end to the tooth and the other end to a doorknob. Then, get your courage up and slam the door shut. Kids, and adults too, tied a string around their finger to help remember to do something. Our moms used it to tie turkey legs together and to sew up a flap so the stuffing stayed in the bird.
Rope, too, was invaluable when I was growing up. The kind we used, clothesline rope, was made from cotton. It wasn’t like today’s rope, made from plastic that unravels when you cut it; the end has to be singed to keep it from fraying. We couldn’t dry our clothes without rope, held up by a pulley on the house and a pole off in the distance or lines of rope fastened to the basement ceiling.
We used rope to tie up the “bad guy” when we played cowboys and Indians. We got pretty good at it, and the “outlaw” often had to beg to be untied. But it was no problem for our dogs to get free when we tied them to a tree; they just chewed through it.
You had to have rope to pull your Flexible Flyer up a hill. And especially when you were brave enough to come down the hill, standing up. It’s how you steered and kept your balance. We needed it to jump rope, with two people spinning a long piece of rope, while others jumped inside the arc. I’m sure we used string and rope for a lot of other things. Maybe you can add to the list.
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