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Keeping one’s cool in the heat
Being away from the humid heat of the Southern summer has led me to appreciate the weather of the Pacific Northwest.
I have been residing in the state for a decade now and have adjusted to the cooler, less-humid summer heat.
But I hear people complain about “how hot it is.” Believe me, you don’t know what hot is until you live in the South with 90- to 100-degree heat, high humidity and little rainfall.
From June to August, the temperature never drops below 85 degrees and you need an air conditioning to survive. Without it, life can be unbearable.
My memories of being a youngster raised in Louisiana are vivid. Despite the heat, summers were filled with adventure with access to a lake, a river, plenty of wooded areas and all the fruit we could find to eat.
Most of the people who lived around my home were either kin to me by blood or marriage, with a few move-ins.
There was a group of eight boys who roamed the country roads (mostly gravel) first on bicycles, then small motorcycles or mini-bikes. Some went shirtless and a few shoeless.
Since we lived close to a lake, fishing was classified as a “sporting event.” To see who could catch the biggest fish, then clean our catches for a fish fry later that day.
When we got tired of fishing, we’d jump into the water and spend several hours swimming. No experienced lifeguards, no fancy pools with chemicals, just “good ol’ lake water.”
We swam in the lake, because the river was too murky with too many alligators and snapping turtles.
Speaking of alligators and turtles, they’re also good to eat.
We were surrounded with plenty of wooded area and the group could spend hours occupying our time building treehouses or a clubhouse, chasing armadillos or shooting snakes.
We would only shoot the poisonous ones like water moccasins, copperheads or rattlesnakes. Amazingly, no one in our group suffered a snake bite.
Since we were usually several miles from our homes, we never went hungry or thirsty.
Our supply of food was endless. There were trees filled with peaches, pears, plums, figs and berry bushes at our disposal. Occasionally, we would find a muscadine tree.
The county also provide enough spring water to drink.
During the summer, visits to my grandparents’ house were frequent since they lived just a short distance away.
My grandmother, who was part Indian and French, could make jelly out of things like pea hulls and watermelon rinds.
And there was always something on the stove to eat.
Baseball was our summer pastime. We managed enough to field a team and build a baseball field and backstop in a cow pasture.
On Sunday afternoons, we would play boys from a neighboring community. Since we all had gloves, we manage to find three baseball bats and even catcher’s gear. We lost more than we won, but established friendships and rivalries.
When it did rain during the summer, the local farmers found relief as their crops always managed to grow.
During the Fourth of July, we had no restrictions on fireworks. We engaged in bottle rocket wars, blew-up ant beds with Black Cat firecrackers and exploded propane-filled plastic bags with roman candles.
The local country store was the center of the community. Most of the time, it was filled with with customers or gossipers who talked about the “real life” dramas. It was a great place to work a few hours each day and I learned a lot.
Then in late August, school would start and our summer adventures would end as homework filled our afternoons and nights.
For nearly three months, we played and sweated, got sunburned and suffered minor scrapes and aches. But I wouldn’t trade growing up in the South for anything.