Towels, pine straw a must when preparing for tournament visitors

I'm ready if you are.

-- John Wayne

Towels and pine straw. Those are the two big secrets of handling Masters Week guests.

You can't have too much of either one.

Take the towels.

First year of married life in Augusta, and all my wife's friends wanted to visit during the big tournament. It was easier to get tickets back then.

Soon, the house was full, the driveway jammed and the bathrooms in a constant state of occupation.

At first we tried to keep up with the explosion of laundry -- washing and drying and washing and drying our towels. But we weren't fast enough. All that laundry used up the hot water, adding cold showers to hospitality offerings.

I dashed to a discount store and bought more towels. I thought I was smart about it, too. I got brightly colored (some might call them garish) beach towels figuring we could use them later in the summer on vacation.

My wife -- Martha Stewart Kirby -- didn't agree with such a practical approach. So back I went to load up on nice white towels.

They were pressed into service quickly.

As for the pine straw, like many of you I spent much of the past weekend in a housework hurricane, washing, sweeping, vacuuming.

Friday night (can you believe it, Friday night?) found me not only changing sheets on spare beds but also on my hands and knees on a cold bathroom floor scrubbing a tub and cleaning baseboards.

All this despite my protests to the household warden that I was not that good at indoor activities.

"I'm more of an outdoor-job guy," I grumbled.

"You'll have that to do Saturday," she said a firm tone.

The good news Saturday was that the rainy week rinsed off a lot of pollen.

The bad news was that the well-watered lawn had sprouted up quick and thick.

And then there were the weeds.

While I cut the ones in the yard that had been trying to blend in with the Bermuda, the ones in the flower beds were too prolific. A new crop seemed to spring up on one side of the house while I was weeding the other side.

Pine straw to the rescue.

Believe it or not, I actually buy pine straw ahead of time. Year round. That way, I don't depend upon abrupt changes in the local market.

I stack my bales in a covered corner of the backyard, and I'm ready for weeks such as this one.

Pine straw will make any front yard flower bed look better. Even if there are no flowers, pine straw adds a nice reddish-brown contrast to spring's usual green.

Apply liberally. Fluff up a bit. Declare victory and go inside to relax.

And if you take a shower, here's a suggestion: Use the beach towels and save the white ones for the guests.

Martha Stewart says so.

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