One of our favorite adult pastimes it seems is complaining about the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet.
Have you ever noticed though, no matter what the weather is like right now, it was always worse when we were kids - it was colder then, and definitely hotter too, and those five-mile walks to school really were uphill both ways.
Of course it is summer now, the time of year I call high summer to be exact, so when it comes to weather the thought on everyone’s mind is “(Insert expletive here), it’s hot!”
Funny thing, I don’t remember ever complaining about the heat when I was a kid. I mean, I’m sure I did complain about it, but looking back I can’t recall ever being too hot. After all, did it ever seem too hot to play outside?
I recently asked some of my friends on a popular social networking site that starts with “F” and ends with “acebook” to share some of their “favorite summertime rituals and memories for cooling out, cooking out, chillaxing or camping” and I received a variety of responses.
Play after work was a popular theme, with things like stopping by a rope swing after work for a quick splash in the Ohio River.
One of my high school classmates recalled getting up at 4 a.m. to ride his bicycle, with fishing pole and tackle attached, from Portland to Racine to work in the tomato fields and then stopping to fish on the way home. I doubt many youngsters do that anymore. Or how about going up to the old Southern Junior High School at night after a rain to collect nightcrawlers with your old man?
When there wasn’t the river, there was always the woods (shaded and cool), doing things like going for a hike after a rain, or looking for yellow root or ginseng. The nighttime was a good time for keeping cool, doing things like sleeping outside (before having air conditioning), and who doesn’t remember poking holes in the lid of a big canning jar to make firefly lanterns.
One of my daughter’s biggest recollections of camping and being outdoors was trying to sleep with a storm-panicked 100-pound Labrador crawling on top of her. That was because (and I didn’t realize it at the time) but I was actually a God of Thunder, and whenever I was outdoors for any length of time the thunderclouds would try to shower me with devotion in the form of lightning bolts and deluges. It was just my family’s misfortune to be outdoors with me at the time.
Perhaps the most novel method of keeping cool was this… “When I was little my job was to sit on top of the ice cream maker while dad cranked. That cools your butt down real quick.”
Some of my running friends have their own warm-weather rituals, like getting up extra early and logging a few miles before it gets too hot. Those are more in line with my interests these days, a cool run or bicycle ride, or firing up the motorcycle for a little trip or free music along the river.
No matter what you choose to do, there is no doubt that summer time is the time for being outdoors, and most of those activities involve water, shade or food, or some combination thereof - camping, s’mores, the beach or the islands. Memories of youth are the best, especially getting to do things that you just can’t do anymore - like riding for hours in the back of a pickup truck, “corning” or other such activities. I did them; I know you did too.
Of all those grand summertime memories, I noticed none of them involve being indoors, sitting in front of the television set. Great memories are not made of such things.
Sadly, for the youngsters, summer is practically over. Stores are holding their back-to-school sales, sports and band practice are underway, fairs are about to begin and then it will be time to head back into the classroom. However, there is still time, still time to feel that thick rope, tight in your grip, the whoosh of the air as you arc out over the river, and the sudden drop and plunge into the cool water, and the gasp for air as you surface.
So get out there and make some memories while there is still some time.
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and his column generally appears every other weekend. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at email@example.com.