It is high summer here in the south. Most days hit 90 degrees plus, even in the shade. If you want to do anything and you don’t want to get wet, you know to do it before 4 pm. Otherwise, those “chance of afternoon thunderstorms” from the weather forecast are going to pop up right where you happen to be. Those storms can be gully washers, and occasionally will spawn hailstorms, tornadoes, and lightning so close you can smell the sulfur and feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If it hits very close, you may be rendered momentarily deaf from the explosion. If it hits even closer, you may find yourself ordering a new big screen TV, computer, and any other electrical appliances you happen to have in your home. God forbid, if it hits any closer than that, grab your babies and cell phone and run for your life as you call 911 because your house is most likely on fire, even if you can’t see it.
Another common high summer inconvenience can be any number of things that can happen because you’re going barefoot. Ah – for all the pleasures of John Greenleaf Whittier’s The Barefoot Boy, there exist just as many dangers. These dangers can be as mild as a splinter or a thorn in the tender flesh of the sole of your bare foot. Or, they can escalate exponentially into the just gross category or the truly deadly category. In the gross category, if you have never stepped barefoot on a garden slug, you just don’t know what “icky” is. Even worse, if you’ve had the misfortune to step smack in the middle of a pile of fresh warm dog poop hidden in the grass, you really can’t grasp the true meaning of gross. Somewhere in between gross and deadly are the painful, but only potentially dangerous events. Step on a broken piece of glass, make the mistake of trying to cross a street that’s been baking in the sun all day, or step on an upturned rusty nail in a scrap of board and it is a feeling you will remember forever. Ask me – I know. What I don’t know from personal experience, praise the Lord, are truly deadly barefoot emergencies. Oh, say, like stepping on a copperhead, a yellow jacket nest, a fire ant mound, or any other number of creepy crawlies. Worth the risk of that cool, luscious feel of thick grass on a hot day? You will have to decide that for yourself.
A final high summer experience not usually fraught with too much danger and discomfort (even though that possibility exists), is some form of water entertainment. Everything from running through sprinklers to “playing in the hose” to public swimming pools, to summer vacations at the beach come to mind. Mostly, as a very small child, it was the hose or a creek. The dirt yard did not require a sprinkler, and pools and vacations cost money. I barely remember we would drive a few miles, cross a rickety old bridge and park off the road near a half mud/half sand beach. There, Sweetwater Creek’s mysterious dark water harbored rocks, fish, and who knows what all kinds of trash and deadly drop-offs. Amazing we managed to survive. As I got older, I could scrounge enough money to go to the public pools, and the family would sometimes go on outings to Lake Spivey, Rock Hill, and High Falls. Eventually, summer vacations to Florida became the norm. Now, I have a luxury I only dreamed of as a kid, my own backyard pool. And I truly do love it.
What are your favorite high summer activities? Do they involve storms, going barefoot, or water? Whatever they are, enjoy them while you can. Summer is only a brief interlude to be savored or endured, depending on your perspective. As for me – I intend to indulge every degree of heat, every drop of water (no matter its source), and maybe, if I can find a patch of it, I will venture to tread barefoot on verdant, cool, luxurious grass.