Midsummer is settling down in earnest as black-eyed susans stare boldly from the roadside, and brilliant orange butterfly bushes bloom in glowing patches. Dog days simmer along, with the monotonous din of the jar flies, and the patina of mold and mildew is everywhere.
Sticky, humid weather is upon us, and the weatherman says that the hottest days of the summer are soon to come. I can remember a time when I was young that we did not have any screen doors, and fighting houseflies through the summer was a constant battle.
At mealtime, Daddy would gather bunches of peppermint that grew thickly along the creek and place it on each corner of the table to repel flies. With the barn, pigpen and chicken house nearby, it is no wonder that we had so many “summer complaints.” We children would take turns waving a leafy branch over the table at mealtime while the rest ate. Cousin Bobby Samples composed a song titled, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” I reckon there are some things you wouldn’t want to go home for again.
Country gardens are beginning to produce crunchy, green cucumbers and tender yellow squash. Crisp leaf lettuce is fixed with a hot dressing of bacon grease, vinegar and sugar, and chopped green onions. Summertime garden food is country eating at its best. If you raise zucchini, you probably have enough to share, and here is a good recipe from my friend, June Cox. She is an excellent cook, so you can be sure that this is very good.
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups sugar
I cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
¾ cup shredded carrots
Mix all this, and add 3 cups flour, ¼ tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. soda, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon. 1 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. cloves and 1 cup black walnuts. Mix everything. Bake in two greased loaf pans at 325 degrees for one hour. May need to bake a little longer.
These sweltering days make me think of the old swimming hole of our childhood, and the days we spent playing in the creek. Mom always tried to keep us out of the creek during dog days, but she fought a losing battle. She told us that creek water in dog days would make “fall sores” on our legs, and sure enough, we usually had them. Do you remember the purple medicine (gentian violet) that our mothers dabbed on our arms and legs? We were usually a purple-dotted bunch that started to school in the fall.
It was worth running the risk, though, when the days were hot and dry, and the creek called to us. We spent hours catching crawdads and the tiny shellfish that we called “penniwinkles” — I think they are freshwater snails. It has been years since I’ve seen a penniwinkle in the creek, or maybe it is because it has been years since I waded the creek looking for them.
Our favorite swimming hole was called the “D. Short Hole,” and it was where the creek from Valley Fork ran into Summer’s Fork Creek. It was deep enough to really swim in (for youngsters) and was used by local churches for their baptismal services. In my mind, I can still hear the old hymn, “Shall We Gather at the River?” echoing from bank to bank.
In dog days, the swimming hole had a peculiar odor all its own. That smell today brings back remembered joys of childhood — jumping feet first into the cool water, and “belly busters” when you dived in flat on your stomach. We would exhale all the air from our lungs to see who could stay on the bottom the longest. Some of these things I will never do again — and some things I don’t want to do again!
We wouldn’t have recognized a municipal swimming pool if we fell into one. The first one I ever saw was when I went to Fairmont with Daddy’s cousin (I think she was) Beulah Henderson. We loved her. She, and her two daughters, would come to visit us for a couple of weeks in the summer, and one time I was allowed to go back with them. I can remember that clear blue water in that city pool, and what an adventure that was! Aunt Beulah made me a bathing suit, and I felt like a princess in a fairy tale. Unfortunately, I got the worst sunburn of my life, but it felt like it was worth it.
It is hard to believe that it has been so many long years ago. It seems that time passes faster now, and I can’t keep up with it. I asked my father one time if time slowed down when you get older, and he answered, “No, it goes even faster.” I think he was right. Now I have two little great-great grandsons who visited me yesterday. They are the cutest little boys that I have seen in a long time.
That reminds me of what my Aunt Lucille said when my sister Jeannie was born. She and Uncle Myles adopted a little girl about the same time, and so Jeannie and Kay were about the same age. Of course each family thought that their baby was the cutest, and Aunt Lucille stated, “Every mother crow thinks their little baby crow is the blackest!”
When I say that my great-great grandsons are the cutest, you understand. If you could see them, I think you would agree! They are so friendly, and happy — I am so thankful that God has blessed us with them. Morgan is such a good mother, and although I don’t know her husband real well, I am sure that he is a good father as well.
I found a poem that my late Aunt Eva Samples King wrote about babies, and I want to share it. Aunt Eva was a good poet and songwriter, and I am proud to be her niece. Here is the poem:
A baby’s love and its little smile,
Can cheer a mother’s heart.
A baby’s cry, and a baby’s pain
Can tear her heart apart.
A little child wants to hold your hand,
So it can learn to walk.
We listen to their lisping words
When they first learn to talk.
But they grow up and go away
And part of us goes too.
But God can guide them all the way
And bring them back to you.
If we have taught them when they’re small
About a greater love,
Then someday we will never part
In that great home above.
They won’t forget a mother’s prayer,
Though they may stray awhile,
For they will still remember
A mother’s prayers — and smile.