Summertime, swimming holes, watermelons and chigger bites

Summer has always been my favorite time—the 2011 version notwithstanding.

Summer offered three months of near unfettered freedom to roam the woods, fish and swim in the creek, play baseball most every day and read books that we checked out from the book-mobile that made weekly stops at a nearby store. That was pleasure reading, not school work.

We had a few chores to do—about an acre of lawn to mow and a garden to help weed and harvest. We shelled peas at night while we watched one of three channels on our black and white television. We hauled watermelons and cantaloupes from the field and set up a little stand beside the road to sell to folks passing by.

We went camping a few times every summer. We pitched makeshift tents by the creek, caught fish at night, played in the camp fire, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and cooked bacon and eggs the next morning. They always tasted smoky. We never slept and were grumpy the next day, mostly my brother.

I remember picking blackberries and the wonderful jelly and cobblers mom made from our harvest. I also remember scratching chigger bites until my skin was raw, and I recall taking baths in chlorine bleach to kill the pesky little bugs.

We dammed up the little streams that ran into the creek and made ponds in which we stocked minnows caught in a burlap-bag seine. When we checked the following day the dam had always washed away and the minnows were free again.

We caught bullfrogs and mom fried frog legs. They did not taste like chicken.

Most every afternoon, except for rare rainy days and when we had church-league baseball games, we spent in the swimming hole, a large, deep, cold basin that washed out every year at a bend in the creek. I learned to swim in that natural pool.

The trek up the hill from the creek was a lot harder than the walk down and we could feel the heat rising incrementally with each step toward home. Fortunately, waiting in the shade at home were watermelons. From late-July until mid-September we had scads of watermelons—Florida giants, Congos and Charleston grays, with an occasional midget melon that was the sweetest of the lot.

Most Wednesday evenings we had to be home and washed up in time for Southern Baptist prayer meeting and youth group. Sunday morning and again Sunday evening we were stuck inside a non-air conditioned church, often with a stiff shirt collar rubbing a fresh sunburned neck. I guess it did me some good.

I also guess South Carolina summers got hot. I don’t recall temperatures ever reaching 110 or hitting 100 every day for most of the summer, and I don’t expect it would have slowed us down much if it had.  We probably would have tried to use the heat as a good excuse to get out of hoeing the garden or mowing the grass but I don’t expect our dad would have bought into that ruse.

I also remember beginning to dread—on the very first day we got out of school—the end of summer and the return to school and daily confinement. Funny, I’m kinda looking forward to fall this year.


TAGS: Vegetables
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