News from the World of Weird: Clothesline War Continues

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Ever wonder what happened to Bend’s Clothesline Lady? She hasn’t gone away or given up – she’s still out there fighting.

The back story: More than two years ago, Susan Taylor decided to start hanging clothes to dry on a line outside her Awbrey Butte home. She thought it would be good for the environment (using nature’s own sun instead of an electricity-gobbling clothes dryer) and she liked the smell of clothes dried in the fresh air.

Alas, the Awbrey Butte homeowners’ association had a 25-year-old rule against outdoor clotheslines. One of Taylor’s neighbors complained, and Brooks Resources (which had built the neighborhood and was in charge of enforcing the rules) told her to cease and desist forthwith.

Taylor tried to get the rule rescinded, without success. She tried to get the state legislature to pass a bill overriding the clothesline ban; it got nowhere. She even tried putting her clothesline inside her garage; Brooks Resources told her that wasn’t allowed either, unless the garage doors were closed.

Meanwhile, Taylor’s battle was becoming a minor international cause célèbre. The Wall Street Journal did a front-page story. NPR and the BBC picked it up. Even a German TV news channel covered it.

Flash forward to September 2009, when Taylor was informed that “continuous acts of non-compliance will result in per-day fines of $20.” She moved the clothesline to the far end of her deck, where Ponderosa pines and other vegetation made it almost impossible to see. She heard no further complaints from the neighbors, so she figured they were cool with it.

They were not. On March 8, when Taylor got her annual statement from the homeowners’ association, “I found out the bite-me-in-the-butt reality.” The statement said she owed the association $994.50, representing $20-a-day fines accumulated since September plus interest. Taylor has appealed the amount and is waiting to hear from the association board.

“What an interesting journey this has been,” Taylor says. “I continue to be as baffled today as I was initially by the negative response by a limited few, for something so benign and rational. Could this be a reflection of a system and country that has gone a bit haywire?”

Taylor told me that media interest has revived now that the controversy has heated up and that a big news outfit in New York (she declined to name it) is working on a story. So it looks like the clothesline saga could put Bend in the national, or international, spotlight again.

Bend, Oregon, World Capital of Weirdness – where men have babies, people fly in lawn chairs and you can get nicked a thousand bucks just for hanging clothes on a line. Ya gotta love it. 


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