When deciding on a title for this week’s article, the thought came to me that people need to be informed about the danger of getting through that time of the year known as “dog days.”
Since dog days begin toward the end of July, I don’t think now is too early to think about the subject. Although it is only June, we need to be prepared.
To begin with, dog days come during the hottest part of summer, and at a time when the human race is susceptible to many body-attacking germs and viruses.
It is a time when, as the old folks used to say, “Any ache or pain is more painful and damaging to the human body if it strikes during the period of dog days.”
Many parts of America have already been hit by heat waves. Weather reports are already carrying such words and phrases as heat wave, sweltering, severe thunderstorms, and temperatures in the 90s and 100s.
The sun has become powerful enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk. Mountain homes are suddenly markets for air conditioners as sleeping aids. And workaholics are sitting and weeping on their dusty brown lawn, wondering how they’re going to use up all of that excess energy with the grass refusing to grow.
Some men are taking up golf to keep from going plumb crazy.
I ask myself why they can’t just sit back and sip ice-cold lemonade and enjoy the time of rest and relaxation.
Just as surely as the dead of winter snowstorms clear the air of the flu germs, the stifling hot days of July and August breed germs and bugs of every sort.
By the time September and October come along, most folks are happily anticipating the coming of frost.
Now, a word about dog days.
Beginning in early July and ending in mid-August, is a 40-day period known as dog days. The wise astrologers of ancient Greece named this period when they learned that Serius, the dog star, rose with the sun on those 40 days.
According to old timers in this country, the position of the dog star has a profound effect on the weather. The fact that this is not a scientific truth doesn’t in any way take away from the legends that surround this season.
Actually, dog days just happen to coincide with the very hot days of the American summer, and since we always must have something to blame our miseries on, dog days becomes the goat.
Whatever the explanation, it is during dog days that bee stings appear to be more painful, poison oak more irritating, and all types of infection more dangerous.
These are the days to watch carefully for rattlesnakes, because snake bites during this time can be very deadly. Rattlesnakes are lazy during dog days, and will hardly expend the energy it takes to bite.
Actually, I don’t pick my times to be respectful of snakes.
Dog days are ptomaine poison days, and a good time for dew sores, tick and spider bites, and water-based bacteria.
Old timers say that this is a good time for dogs to get rabies, for cows to get bangs disease, for hogs to get cholera, and for poultry to be covered with lice.
Grandparents still warn their grandchildren against going without shoes during dog days, because of diseases prevalent in grass and soil.
I doubt if a great number of people will forego the many pleasures of summer because they fear the season of dog days, but my conscience is clear. I warned you.
-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.