Wow! Summer is finally here.
Well -- actually -- it seems to have been here for w a good while now. We've had some pretty hot and dry weather so far this year, and it doesn't look to get much cooler or wetter, except for a drop in temps and an outside chance of rain this week. But then it'll be back up in the hot and humid zone, probably for the rest of the summer. As they say -- Welcome to Summer in Missouri.
I agree that the hot, sticky days of summer in mid-Missouri can be stifling, but I remember someplace that rivals -- if not surpasses -- this.
Down deep in the holler along the Tomahawk in Stone County, Arkansas, just south of Mountain View, things tended to get a little nasty come July and August. The air would get so think you could feel the moisture on your skin all day long -- no matter if you were plowing the rows between the stalks of corn behind a stubborn old mule or sitting on the bank of the creek waiting for the sunfish and bass to take your bait. Most times you could wait until late afternoon to mow the lawn and still find the grass so wet it clumped up labored the engine.
I used to think the moisture in the air would protect the crops in the truck patch, but the summer sun always took its toll on the tomatoes, leaf lettuce, squash and other table veggies grandma used to raise. The potatoes were safe underground, but the leaves on top were pretty dry and droopy by the time split the rows to harvest the russets. The pain of picking the cucumbers and the beans in the summer heat could be lessoned if you picked in the early morning hours or late in the evening when the sun was starting to dip behind Round Top.
On weekends grandma would talk grandpa into taking us across the ridge to the valley where Turkey Creek ran its course on the way to its confluence with the Tomahawk -- a joining that made a larger stream known as the Beech Fork. There we would wade into the blackberry bushes growing wild as far as one could see. Long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats help keep the thorns and sun from becoming too big of a problem, but we had to be ever vigilant against an ever-present threat from beneath the bushes -- the wily Copperhead and cautious but dangerous Timber Rattler.
Grandpa would slowly pick his way around the outside of the bushes closest to the shade of the large Oak, Beech, Maple and Sycamore trees while I slowly picked my way around the tops of the bushes. Grandma, on the other hand, would just traipse right into the middle of the bushes looking for the plumpest and sweetest berries she could find.
If I was lucky, after a week of working in the dusty heat of Hanover, grandpa would get a "hankerin" to saddle up the horses and take a ride down to the old Boat Hole on the Tomahawk. Once there, we'd go for a swim and just laze around -- all the while watching for the Water Moccasins and Cotton Mouths.
The Boat Hole was the kind of place you see in the movies where all the youngsters jump off downed trees and ropes tied to overhangs into the cool clean water of a mountain stream. For a young teenager, it beat the heck out of taking a bath in a polished porcelain tub and served as a much needed escape from the hard but strangely pleasant summer farmstead existence of summers spent down in the holler.
Yep -- it's gonna get hot and sticky, but I'd bet good money that we'll all find a way to cool off -- even if it's only in our memories.