The long hot days of summer are upon us. Southwest Virginia, along with a large part of the United States, is experiencing the years big heat wave. All during the wet , rainy Spring we looked forward to the coming of summer and the potent rays of the sun coming down.
Well it got here; there’s no question about that. Yet we still complain because it isn’t exactly what we ordered. Weather reports have been full of descriptive words and phrases like, sweltering, humid, scorching, muggy, stifling, severe thunder storms, and hundred degree temperatures.
In recent weeks we have experienced heat of such intensity that we could have fried an egg on the concrete sidewalks. Mountain homes that have stayed cool some summers past are suddenly becoming markets for air conditioners as sleeping aids.
Soft drink sales are up, and coffee prices down, while landowners are sitting on their brown, dusty lawns, wondering how they will use up all of that excess energy stored up in their bodies with the grass refusing to grow. Some, I,m sure, are taking up golf to keep from going plumb crazy. Why can’t they just sit back and sip lemonade, and enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Just as surely as dead of winter snowstorms clear the air of flu germs, the stifling hot days of July and August breed germs of every sort, and by the time October and November come along, most folks are happily anticipating the coming of frost.
Beginning in early July, and ending in mid-August is a forty day period known as Dog Days. The wise astrologers of ancient Greece studied the heavenly bodies and learned that Serius, the dog star rose with the sun over a period of forty days. Boy, those old time scientists were smart. They taight us that the position of the Dog Star has a very profound effect on the weather.
The fact that things I will mention in this story are not all scientific facts, doesn’t in any way take away from the many legends that surround this mysterious season. Actually Dog Days just happen to coincide with the terribly hot days of the American summer, and since we seem to always have to have something or someone to blame all of our miseries on, Dog Days is the goat.
Whatever the explanation, we can not deny that bee stings are more painful, poison oak more itchy and all types of infection more dangerous. These are the days to be especially watchful of snakes. Rattlers are very lazy until the month of August, but after that, until frost, they get more lively. Dog Days are ptomaine poison days, and a good time for ticks to bite and attach themselves to humans; also spider bites and water-based bacteria.
Old timers will tell you that the forty day period is when dogs tend to contact rabies, and for cows to have bangs disease, and hogs to have cholera, and chickens to be covered with lice.. Grandparents still warn against children going without shoes during Dog Days, because of the many infectious diseases prevalent in the grass and soil.
I doubt if many people will forego the many pleasures of summer because they fear the time of Dog Days, but this clears my conscience. I warned you
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski..