Al Batt: Our summers aren’t bad; it’s a wet heat

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tales from Exit 22, By Al Batt

Our summers aren’t bad; it’s a wet heat

We complain about the weather all year long. It’s a full-time job, but we know when summer hits. The snow is warmer.

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A friend was chuckled even though the crabgrass on his lawn grew faster than his golf handicap.

I asked him why he was such a happy camper.

He smiled broadly and said, “My neighbor has a terrible lawn. It’s even worse than mine.”

That meant that his neighbor, whether his name was Jones or not, would be easy to keep up with.

The first day of summer hits my house on June 20 this year. That will be opening mic night for crickets.

The weather in the summer disappoints as it does in all seasons. We get too much or too little. The weather is never normal. That’s OK. Normal isn’t that great.

The weather forecasts are often for hot and humid. They remind us that meteorology is riddled with correct predictions. Summer is that time of year that even though our mothers told us to always take a jacket, it’s just too hot to carry a jacket.

As a small version of me, I’d stay outside until the mosquitoes drove me indoors. A mosquito is a fairly dependable insect that makes it possible to give blood without having to visit the Red Cross. Whenever I swat a mosquito, all of its relatives fly in for the funeral. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we walk in the woods, we must feed mosquitoes.” My yard is an insect factory. The insects are most commonly called, “What is that?” I think some of the ones that gnaw on me had been extinct, but got over it. The area surrounding our home is the Jurassic Park of insects. Biting insects weaponize our summer days. I spend my afternoons trying to outrun a deer fly.

Fireflies were numerous and entertaining. Traffic was stop and glow.

On scalding hot days when dogs were tripping over their tongues, we weren’t prisoners of air conditioning. The house I grew up in had natural air conditioning that worked well, but only during the winter. It was home, sweat home when it was as hot as the hand-hammered edges of Hades. I learned that if I could smell myself, others could, too. I spent my summers making friends with the shade under a tree and taping ice cubes to my body.

It was so hot one year that our barn melted and my neighbor fried eggs on the hood of his car. We ate the eggs. They tasted like car wax.

The mayor of a local small town walked outside and yelled, “Bang!” The city was on a strict budget for its Fourth of July fireworks.

Alice Cooper sang, “No more pencils, no more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks. Out for summer. Out till fall. We might not come back at all. School’s out forever. School’s out for summer.”

No teacher ever wishes that summer would go by more quickly. Most students wanted a six-month vacation twice a year. Summer gave a young person’s brain several months off.

Working on the farm was steady work. It never stopped. Working in the garden was chard work. Every job took its toll. Milking cows (we milked twice a day — too early and way too early), feeding livestock, dispatching weeds from fields, baling hay and pitching poop into manure spreaders were all fine activities, but I needed a job with an employee number and a paycheck. Such work wasn’t difficult to find.

Remember your first real summer job? It wasn’t a career. It wasn’t much money, but it was money. It was expected that a teenybopper get a job. It was a rite of passage. As Yoda said so well, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

One of my first jobs was to make sure that the sweet corn was smooth in a processing plant. I was one of the kernel sanders. OK, I wasn’t, but I would have liked to have been.

Eddie Cochran sang about it. “Well my mom and pop told me, ‘Son you gotta make some money. If you want to use the car to go ridin’ next Sunday.’ Well, I didn’t go to work, told the boss I was sick. “

‘Well you can’t use the car ‘cause you didn’t work a lick.’ Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do. But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”

There is a cure for the summertime blues. It’s called January.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.