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Good Old summertime

Summer is almost gone. Many of the things we spent the winter and spring thinking we would do come summer remain undone.
The long, long days are just not long enough to get around to everything. It hasn’t always been that way though.
I remember a time when the world wasn’t moving so fast; a time when people were not wanting so much, and were satisfied with a little less than the best. I call those days the good old summer days.
Those days were filled with more excitement than can be found on all of the TV soap operas combined. I like to think of them as childhood out of school days, ice tea and watermelon days, early morning until late afternoon in the neighborhood swimming hole days.
It was the time of tents in the backyard, and the smell of burning candles within the burlap or canvas walls; roasting ripe ears of corn borrowed from a neighbor farmers field for the evening meal before the tent side campfire, or an early morning feast of a red ripe watermelon chilled by the overnight shower of dew.
I’m talking about the times of inexpensive entertainment. An entire Saturday afternoon at the local theater following the adventures of Buck Jones, Hop-along Cassidy, Ken Maynard, and the fiery little figure of Bob Steele, who would take on several outlaws, whip them, and never get a spot of dirt on his white hat.
Occasionally they would show a romantic singing Gene Autry or a Roy Rogers movie, and a chapter of a serial and add on a Porky Pig cartoon for dessert – all for ten cents, a lot of entertainment for the price. And it was not expensive, because kids didn’t expect the world.
Entire families could find happiness in a late afternoon game of croquet, or a good game of country horseshoes, in which ringers counted five points and leaners, three. The closest shoe got the point if it was a mile away from the pole, and if a player was lucky enough to top a ringer, that counted ten points.
Hot summer days were often spent on the riverbank, by youngsters hunting and capturing snakes. The hotter the day, the better for that sport, because the reptiles liked to lay on the warm rocks and enjoy the sun.
It was at this time of growing up that I learned that a snake won’t die until the sun goes down, no matter how much one tries to kill it. We used to hang them up and watch their tails wiggle until the sun was down and out of sight.
Another thing I learned at this time was that 17-year locusts do not necessarily come every 17 years. On certain years they come in droves, and the noise of one, multiplied by millions can be ear shattering
Catching lightning bugs was another sport enjoyed in my childhood summers. Kids used to catch them by the jarful before releasing them. Times were hard all over, but children didn’t seem to realize it.
If an evening meal consisted of a bowl of scalded lettuce with cucumbers and hot biscuits smothered in thickening gravy, kids were not discouraged. Thoughts of a slice of crisply fried sowbelly make me hungry to this day. And I still enjoy breaking out a can of sardines to eat with soda crackers and a big glass of cold buttermilk, with little specks of yellow butter swimming on top.
Yes, summertime is great, but fall, winter and spring are just as good in our land that we proudly refer to as Appalachia. The blessings we have are overwhelming.

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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