“Lawd Have Mercy…I’m Gonna Melt”

“By July, a damp Southern heat had settled down on the town like warm sweet syrup.” ― Marti Healy

Lawd, it is July early, just a few days past the Fourth, and it is already hotter than new asphalt laid down in August. It’s a still heat…nay it is stagnant. It hangs like a heavy curtain. I imagine being wrapped in a wet, wool blanket and forced to sit in a sauna. I just took a shower after an early morning fitness walk, and I don’t know why I took the time to dry off.

It is a silent heat. The birds aren’t singing or flying about. The only movement I detect is the swarm of mosquitoes chasing a swarm of gnats. I just mentioned three of the five most hated things about summer in the South. The other two? Stinging critters and the humidity.

According to the biology, sweat evaporation is necessary to keep the body cool. It ain’t working. I’m sweating gallons but the humidity is so high the perspiration drips from my nose and runs downhill into my shoes.

My mind wanders to a hot, midday August practice. Football in the South, gotta love it. The player was an industrial sized defensive lineman dragging himself through whatever hell I was having him do.

As I watched him huff and puff, I asked, “Are you okay?”

The young man didn’t even look up, “Coach, I’m okay, I’ve just dyin’ of heat castration.”

I knew better than ask but I did, “What exactly is heat castration.”

“Coach, when it’s so hot I’m sweating my balls off.”

It is as still as the inside of a coffin and I’m not moving fast enough to create a breeze. Southern authors might describe the heat as “sultry.” No, Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat was sultry. I’m sitting on the hot tin roof without her. (For those not old enough, Elizabeth Taylor starred in the movie “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She is referred to as Maggie the Cat by her husband, portrayed by Paul Newman.)

Elizabeth Taylor making a slip look “sultry”

I think our Southern summers are trying to kill us. I need to cut my grass. I walked out before checking the temperature on my phone’s weather app. After I got outside, I no longer needed to check it. “Lawd, I’m gonna burst into flames.”

I decided the grass could wait. After checking the daily forecasts, cutting might have to wait until October. The heat index, what hell feels like to the skin, is 105.

I have grown fat and soft. The heat didn’t bother me as it rippled the air over the corn, cotton, and hay fields of my youth causing heat mirages to form over the fields. Well…it bothered me, but I didn’t let it stop me…I wasn’t allowed to let it stop me. That is not the case now. It stops me dead in my tracks.

I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. It is cooler here than the rest of the state. I don’t know how people live in the midlands. Orangeburg is located just south of Columbia and just above hell. Living there must feel like living in the top of a double boiler.

Before you folk living in Texas, Arizona, and Death Valley, California, chime in, heat and humidity are relative to where you live. You live there, I live here and I’m sweating like a sporting lady sitting in the front row of a church.

As a young church goer, I remember sitting through summer sermons in our unairconditioned church. Tall windows open for wasp to fly in but are catching little of a nonexistent breeze. If there was a breeze it always seemed superheated as if from a blast furnace. On a particularly hot day, our stoic minister recorded what had to be the shortest sermon of all time. “If you think it is hot now, just wait. Mend your ways or suffer hellfire. Benediction please!”

Overdressed women with funeral home fans frantically trying to move the air. Overdressed men in suitcoats sitting stoically as perspiration pooled in their underwear. The women’s movements creating more heat than the heat they dissipated. My own perspiration causing my shirt to stick to the varnished pews.

Summer may be trying to kill us, but we wear our sweat stains like a badge of honor and produce creative and colorful ways to describe it. “Hotter than a blister bug in a pepper patch” and it’s close kin, “Hotter than a goat’s ass in a pepper patch.”  “Hotter than the devil’s housecat,” and my all-time favorite, “Hotter than two rats screwing in a wool sock.”

Blister Bug (Beetle) One of 7500 different varieties that cause painful blisters. Not nearly as sultry as Liz Taylor.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Eugene Walter, “Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.” Proud to be submerged in what must be a vat of very warm molasses.

Still, without the summer there would be no scents of honeysuckle mixing with jasmine and gardenias. There would be no lightning bugs, no lonesome call of the whippoorwill, no blue tailed skink living on my back porch. There would be no watching dragonflies chase each other over the cooling waters of the local lake.

There would be no anticipation of rain from the tree frogs, their croaking rising with the late evening breeze and the distant display of heat lightning. If fortunate, the blessed cool after a thunderstorm and the smell of ozone in the air.

There would be no tomato sandwiches and corn on the cob roasting on a grill. There would be no smell of BBQ slow cooking in a smoker…well, you can slow cook pork in the winter too, but winter tomatoes are God awful.

Summer might be trying to kill us, but it gives us sustenance, not physically but emotionally. We are all proud survivors…until we are not and in the South the dead don’t quite stay dead. I wonder if the ghosts of our past sweat as much as we do.

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1M-GLJxRmzg_d2txgswxw3AvY26zxoXZH02axPJ0gJN3Kn77lEDX79vPY

🎶 Time to turn so you don’t burn! 🎶

“During this heatwave, please remember to dress for the body you have, not the body you want.”                – Unknown

There was a time when I lived for the sun and joined in with the sunbathing crowd. In high school it might have been the old swimmin’ hole or the pool in Fort Mill or Springs Park…Springmaid Beach on vacation.

Later there was the green grass known as Cromer Beach at Newberry College next to the women’s dorm or Macedonia Beach near the church with the same name on Lake Murry. The local radio station would periodically issue a burn alert accompanied by the ding of an oven timer.

The aroma of Coppertone was heavy in the air. The smell of nubile, young women in bathing suits laying around the pool, rendering in Johnson’s Baby Oil or some coconut butter “tanning lotion”. Young men cannon balling off the diving board trying to get the attention of that certain someone.

There is something about the scent of Coppertone that brings back memories. A black two piece on a deeply tanned, dark-haired senior coed who took pity on a tongue-tied Sophomore one Sunday at Macedonia Beach. Epic.

The Coppertone Girl and Puppy

Now it is about the smell of burning flesh as I have another batch of cancer cells cut from my body and the incision cauterized. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” There will be a time when you must “pay the piper.” When it comes to the sun, I have been found out and the piper continues to insist upon his “cut”.

Now it is more about sitting around the pool under a massive umbrella covered in SP100 with the smell of BBQ rendering in its own fat. Ribs or butts being prepared by someone else. If I have my “druthers” I sit inside in the air conditioning swilling a gin and tonic or Meyer’s Dark Rum and tonic, with a twist of lime…a beer will do but I must get my dose of citrus.

Covered in sunscreen Blogspot.com

I’ve become the old fart who pontificates about the good old days. Stories embellished from a lifetime mired in the past. The nubile young hanging on my every word are neither as nubile nor young as I remember.

To quote Buffett…again, “One day soon I’ll be a grandpa. All the pretty girls will call me, “Sir”. Now where they’re asking me how things are, soon they’ll ask me how things were.” I hate to tell you Jimmy, we’ve both reached that milepost…and it is in our rear-view mirror.

In addition to losing the skin encasing my body, I don’t sweat well. At any temperature above seventy-five my sweat glands work like Niagara Falls after the spring snow melt. I don’t glisten like a Southern Belle; I gush and continue to gush well after I quit my activity.

Photo by Fabio Pelegrino on Pexels.com

I didn’t notice it so much during my younger days. I guess I was too intent on the young females in skimpy bathing suits. I did notice it in the hay, corn, and cotton fields of my youth but then there were no girls about to distract me. There was no scent of Coppertone to inhale, just the scent of “Ode de Don” as certain areas became yeasty with the heat generated from my effort.

I was reminded of this, this past weekend. My walking friend was out of town, and I decided to do our weekly walk without him. During my days running before my knees let me down, Saturdays were what I called LSD runs…you had to be tripping to do them…especially in the summer. No, LSD stood for long, slow distance. For me, during those days of yesteryear, it was usually a ten miler. Now, in real time, it is a five miler, walking.

Due to so much uncluttered time with no one to talk to, I was forced to do something I rarely do…think.  What I thought about was how thankful I was to be on the trail this beautiful if humid morning. What made me more thankful were the large numbers of people who appeared to be, like me, refugees from a geriatric ward. 

These were “seasoned” men and women who were trying to outride, outrun, or out walk the grim reaper.  I was particularly motivated by the much older couple who strolled up the slight incline using walking canes while holding hands.  There was a young man who came screaming up the incline on his low-slung hand powered bicycle, useless legs just along for the ride.  AMAZING AND MOTIVATING!

I want to apologize to the three older men I met.  Not for what I thought or said, but for the fact my jaw went slack and agape when I saw the large expanse of white skin and hair from their shirtless bodies.  Guys, I know it was hot and humid, but you should not run without a shirt. In fact, anything you might do without a shirt should be privately contained.  “Guys, I apologize for my facial expression, but you looked like three very pale Mr. Potato Heads.

My tee shirt had gained about a pound of sweat, but I would never take it off in a public place…not even at a pool. I am in fairly good shape…for my age…but have reached the age that I now try to sneak up on mirrors when naked or partially naked. 

From Pinterest.com

Despite all the bicep curls I do; my arms are sticklike.  Pushups can’t keep my chest from falling into my stomach, sit ups and planks can’t keep my stomach from collapsing into my rear, and I don’t know where my rear is going. I guess into my feet because they are still growing.

My years of sunbathing, waiting for the transistor radio to alert me when to turn are over. So are my ten-mile LSD runs. I still reserve the right to ogle ladies in swimsuits and spandex. The cute little girl, probably thirty plus, who ran by me, her ponytail bouncing, was like a chocolate dessert. She smiled sweetly as she sprinted by, and I watched in appreciation of the female form. It is okay to look if I don’t touch. I would be like an old dog chasing a car. If I caught it, I wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.

Jimmy Buffett’s ode to aging. “Nothing But a Breeze.”

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3U6N5NmXWSwpqgCTf-ex4Akj7DmVnUX6kcaN6hEyBC-iHxGtJMeKQrMz0

Hotter Than The Devil’s Colon

“It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.” — Walter Winchell

The “Dog Days” of Summer just ended but I guess no one informed Mother Nature.  Maybe she is “going through the change” and is sharing some of those hot flashes my wife tells me about.  Much of the country is finding out about Momma’s hot flashes. Good Lord I’m dyin’ here. It is hotter than “all get out!”

Dog Days? Credit the ancient Greeks for the name. They dubbed Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, the “Dog Star”.  From the Greek word Canis we somehow arrive at the word canine…the word for puppy dog. 

The star appears above the eastern horizon just ahead of the Sun in late July and with its appearance, the hottest days of summer arrive. At least that is the folklore. It was already “hotter than a pepper sprout” before Sirius peeked at us from above the horizon.

The Greeks believed the combined power of the stars, Helios (Greek for the Sun) and Sirius. Their combined heat was what made this the hottest time of year. As hot as puppy breath.

The Greeks also believed the Dog Days didn’t bode well for humans…or dogs. All you have to do is read Homer’s Iliad. It refers to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising and describes the star as being associated with war and disaster. Even the Romans believed the rising of Sirius to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat.

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” is believed to have been coined by Englishman Rudyard Kipling and might too apply. Not sure his quote has anything to do with the Dog Days but “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” was a great album. Sometimes my thoughts wander like Joe Cocker singing in front of a microphone.

I do know it is hotter than a mosquito’s tweeter.  When I walked through the Wally World parking lot yesterday and got into my black truck with its black interior it was hotter than “blue blazes” which with “mosquito’s tweeters” got me to thinkin’, always iffy for me. I began to mull over all of the Southern colloquialisms I have heard to describe how hot it might be. These are some of the “cleaner” ones I’ve heard throughout my lifetime. Mostly cleaner…well borderline cleaner.

First, to be clear, I’m not complaining about the heat.  After a particularly brutal winter, for the foothills of the South Carolina, I swore I would “nevah, evah” disparage the heat of summer again.  Humidity, now that is something else. I will disparage humidity, it is fair game.  So to be clear, I’m not disparaging the weather being “hotter than a Billy goat with four peckers.”

Seems we Southerners have several colorful colloquialisms involving Billy goats and heat.  Besides the previously mentioned curiously endowed Billy there is “hotter than a Billy goat with a blow torch” and my favorite, “hotter than a Billy goat’s ass in a pepper patch.”  Man, that’s sho nuff hot.

We have a gracious plenty of sayings involving animals and heat.  “Hotter than Satan’s housecat.” “Hotter than a fire hydrant chasing a dog.” My very favorite, “hotter than two rats fornicating in a wool sock” or its variation, “two dogs fornicating in a croker sack.”  Those sayings lose something in the translation but I felt it prudent to change from the other “F” word.  I know a gussied up pig is still a pig. Finally, one I really don’t understand involves an owl I reckon, “Hotter than a hoot ‘n a poot.”  Nope, don’t understand at all but it is somewhat rhythmic sounding.

Including the title of my epic, many sayings involve the Devil or Hell as you can imagine.  “Hotter than the Devil’s armpit.” “Hotter than Satan’s toenails.” “Hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell.”  “Hotter than Hell and half of Georgia.”  

Poor Georgia. Georgia is at best semi-tropical and at worst, centered directly over Hell.  “Hotter than a Georgia firecracker lit at both ends.”  “Hotter than Georgia asphalt.”  Sorry, Georgia, I don’t mean to denigrate but there are few places I’d rather not be in the Southern summer and you are included on my list along with Columbia, South Carolina. 

I know why “the devil went down to Georgia” in the old Charlie Daniels tune. Despite the lyrics, he wasn’t “looking for a soul to steal” or to challenge Johnny to a fiddle contest.  He was on his way back home to Georgia from his vacation spot in Columbia. Sorry, Ray Charles, Georgia is not on my mind.

I reckon I would be remiss if I didn’t include one off color response to the Southern heat involving women of ill-repute. “Hotter than a two-dollar whore on Saturday night” or a variation on the theme, “Sweatin’ like a whore in Sunday school.” I’ll quit. Yeah, I know I said one off color response and your got two. Must have been Saturday nickel night.

During my early football coaching days I questioned a player who seemed to be struggling in the afternoon heat and humidity after the second practice during August two-a-days. His steps were slow and plodding, his head downcast as we fought our way up the hill to the locker room through soup like humidity.

Bub, you lookin’ a bit wane. You okay?”

Exhaling heavily, “I’m ah sufferin’ from heat castration, Coach.”

Heat castration? That’s a new one on me.”

Yeah Coach, It’s so hot I’m sweating my balls off.” Bah-da-boom.

I read a quote recently that was directed at the Pelican State but could have been directed at any Southern state during the late summertime…or the rest of the United States this year.  Tom Robbins wrote, “Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air–moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh–felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing.”  Well said, Mr. Robbins, well said.

From previous experience, my guess is the obscene heat and humidity we Southerners endure will continue well past the official end of Summer.  Mother Nature doesn’t seem to abide by calendars or such. At times I’ve found late October to be “hotter than forty dammits”

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining and I will not wish my life away longing for fall. I wouldn’t live anywhere else but am thankful for the invention of air conditioning cause otherwise I’d be “sweatin’ like a pig in a sausage factory.”

Meanwhile, here’s Charlie Daniels with a few of his friends. “Devil Comes Back to Georgia.”

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1AnHOdby4tY4i5xWAMfNinEgy1Y4K5EpLKQBVaDr5-QeTZX1fkiYOzOW8

The soaring thermometer image came from https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1429525/beware-of-soaring-heat-index-stay-cool-and-hydrated-pagasa

Summers Now Past

Or when I reaized Peter Pan had died.

My best summers are behind me not ahead.  If memory serves me, my best summers ended when my hand could reach around the end of a hoe handle or I became strong enough to heft a square bale of hay and toss it onto the back of a flatbed truck.  It certainly ended the summer I walked into the den of heat and noise that was Springs Mills.  Peter Pan died that day.  Despite my best efforts I had grown up.

The last day of school before the summer break.  Elementary school kids squirming in their seats waiting to cast off the chains of their forced imprisonment.  “I’m free, I’m free!”  And just like that, it was September again.

No more Tonka toys and little green soldiers in a sandy ditch.  No more corn cob fights with Mickey and Donnie Ray around the barn. No more playing war in red clay banks around the cornfield.  Fewer trips to the river to check trotlines or intently watching a bobber while praying for a bit of a nibble just to let me know something was down there.

Ode to youth now past.

Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge a high-pressure dome is making life unbearable.  Hot, hot, hot.  Humid, humid, humid…but no rain.  Hotter than two mice mating in a wool sock and even the devil is bitching about the humidity.  Despite the humidity and the thunder that rumbled around yesterday, my garden is dryer than a popcorn fart.

There is something about the heat and humidity that brings the memories back.  I question how I survived without air conditioning but somehow, I did.  Tall screenless windows at school, perspiration dripping on notebook paper as I practice my letters.  A wasp flies through the window causing a momentary lull in the activities.

No reprieve at home or at church on Sunday.  Humidity and heat causing my shirt to stick to the lacquered seatback.  Ladies in pillbox hats, gloves, and long sleeves fanning as if their lives depend on it, and it may have.  Men in suits and ties sitting stoically in their own perspiration.  The minister announces with a thump of his Bible, “If you think it’s hot now…just wait.  Benediction please.”

As I remembered, my back was bent toward the ground as I straddled the short row of beans.  Perspiration ran down my nose and was soaked up by the dusty soil underneath me as the rivulets landed with a plop.  My sweat ran like the Catawba River during the rainy season when my revelation occurred.  I was thinking of a simpler time.  In my mind my grandmother is beside me, both of us straddling a row, the sweat running down both our noses.

Summer was the time to make hay while the sun shone…tomatoes, beans, squash, okra, watermelons, and corn too.  The sun shone hotly and pulled the moisture into the air encapsulating me in what seemed like a wet, wool blanket.  Hot, moist sun-heated air.  Squash and cucumbers wilting, corn stalk leaves drooping in the afternoon heat…humans wilting and drooping as if they were plants.

As I shift briefly to the present, I realize, there will be good Summers ahead…they will just be different.  Miller Kate and Noli cavorting, splashing in the pool remind me of their mother searching for crawdads and salamanders in the stream by the house.  A memory that brings the smile to my face.  It is about their memories and dreams now.  Mine are still focused on the past.

I remember the welcomed afternoon thunderstorms.  The smell of ozone heralding the cooling winds to come…a few minutes of chill until the sun returned…heat and humidity with it.  Storm clouds outlining the distant water tower in Waxhaw to the east, the western sun reflects off of the tower and makes the thunderheads seem ominous.

My grandmother’s admonishment, “Don’t stand in the draft you might get hit by lightning” or “Get away from the sink!  Lightning will fry you like fatback.”  Needless to say, nothing electrical was turned on especially the TV.  Lightning strikes were worrisome on her hilltop if the lightning rods on the hip roof of my grandmother’s house were to be believed.

Despite sitting in a low ‘holler’, the transformer down the river road from my house was hit a few times and I remember mini lightning flashes jumping between the telephone and the lights over the kitchen bar.  Probably shouldn’t answer the phone.

Ball jars filled with water and wrapped in newspaper to keep it cool.  It didn’t work.  Water was welcomed even warm.  There were times I would have sucked the water from a mud puddle if I could have found one.  Those transcontinental rows of corn that needed to be hoed or forty ‘leven thousand hay bales to toss and stack.  There is nothing much hotter than corn, hay, or cotton fields during July and August.

Inside the relative cool of a non-airconditioned kitchen, sweet Southern iced tea, or a glass of chilled buttermilk, helped to quench your thirst.  Drops of condensation succumbing to gravity on the side of an iced jelly glass…Sylvester the Cat staring back at me, a huge grin on his face.  He knew how much I enjoyed the tea and the peanut butter cookie that accompanied it.  

Late in the harvest season, a watermelon might be picked and put in a nearby stream to cool.  Maybe a ripe tomato or two.  Late afternoons we would crack open the bounty and fight off the horse flies as watermelon juice mixed with the sweat and dripped from our fingers and faces.

In this new timeline, I think about cracking open the Tanqueray and adding some tonic and lime.  What? We have no lime?  Wait! Ah, I found one.

I stare out of my French Doors wondering if I really want to leave the air conditioning to cut grass or pick beans…or do anything else…  How did I get so old?  I also know that the extra piece of watermelon I want to eat will add at least two trips to the bathroom during the night.

I once had an old man tell me the problem with getting old.  “Young man, you know what is bad about gettin’ old?”  I think I was fifty at the time.  In his overalls with a fedora pushed back on his head, he answered the question I had not asked, “There are no dreams left for old men.”

I thought I knew what he meant.  Dreams of love, or an unreasonable facsimile. Getting ahead in the world, earning triumphs and victories, winning another state championship, and overcoming the disappointments of being close but no cigar.

The old man was correct.  There are no pursuits of state championships any more but I would edit his comment.  “There are no young man’s dreams but there are dreams.”

Dreams of a different time when Peter Pan was still alive.  Dreams of summers without a care in the world…a time when I knew I never wanted to grow up…but yet I did.

Still, I shan’t be sad.  There will be good summers ahead as long as my sun continues to rise.  I won’t dream only of the past.  Even dreams must change with time.

***+

The image is of a summer sunset from Pixabay and found on The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3YwCXc-tSERSihnz93ceDKB3PzxGIYX3lVWrJx3-mYmPV89rNT4j7PvxA.

The Champagne of Bottle Beer 

 

I can remember the best beer I ever drank…can you?

I have a love-hate kind of relationship with beer.  Mentally I think, “I love beer,” in my best Brett Kavanaugh voice.  Mentally I should think, “I love ‘good’ beer.”  I’m not sure Justice Kavanaugh cares if it is good beer or not, just cold and in large quantities.  I also understand ‘good’ beer is a subjective term and I might not know what a good beer is should it bite me on my ass.  I’ve had many bad beers bite me on the ass too and any beer past three is a bad beer.

A video of a very young country “singer” triggered my thoughts.  Thanks, so much for sending me that at five in the morning Leland.  The young crooner was singing of “ice-cold root beer in long-necked bottles” and the thought of ice-cold beer took me down a pig trail to a hot summer on a loading dock or in my case an unloading dock.  I was between year four and five of my teaching career and working summers to help make ends meet.

Ten-hour days, eight on Friday.  Time and a half over forty unloading goods for a five and dime chain.  Big boxy trailers that had made the long ocean voyage from China, offloaded on our left coast and stacked on flatbed railroad cars headed east.  Off-loaded again in Greenville and hauled to me to be unloaded and broken down before being distributed all over the Southeast.  I remember thinking of my Asian counterpart slaving away loading the trailer I was now unloading.  He or she got the ball rolling as these goods would be loaded and unloaded at least one more time before they found their way to shelves near you.

I wondered why he had loaded so much dust and filth with the flimsy boxes I manhandled out the back of those trailers.  Now I wonder what life-threatening timebombs are waiting to go off in my body from that filth and dust.  Get back on the subject, please.

The subject was beer, the best beer I ever drank.

A six a.m. to four p.m. shift had ended and it was still hotter than forty kinds of hell.  The day had been spent in an airless trailer pulling out corrugated boxes filled with who knows what and covered with who knows what.  Every box I moved sent dust swirling in the airless trailer.  Even on the dock, the mid-July sun and humidity was merciless, pounding me like a superheated hammer on the anvil that was my head.

Bone weary and headachy, I drug myself to my car.  With no air conditioning, I dropped the top of the ’76 MG and headed home, fifteen miles away.  I remember being dry as the Sahara and stopped at a country mercantile featuring peeling white paint and rusting Esso and ice-cold Pepsi signs.  I could think of nothing better than an ice-cold Pepsi to relive the dryness in my parched head and made my way straight to the old waist-high blue cooler with Pepsi in red across a white field.

Pepsi

Opening it I found no Pepsis…or Coke.  There were no soft drinks in this cooler.  Instead, tall long-necked bottles of Miller High Life beckoned to me and I contemplated a change in beverage.

The woman behind the counter, a peroxide blond fireplug with too much makeup and carrying an extra fifty pounds in weight cautioned me, “That’s the coldest beer you’ll ever find as long as you keep the top closed.  You’re lettin’ the cold out.  You need to make up your mind.”

Sufficiently chastised, I made up my mind and was rewarded.  As I removed a Champagne of Bottle Beer there was an audible crunch as the ice gave way.  It was so cold it was stuck to the bottom of the cooler.  Promptly I picked a second one and after paying the blond fireplug headed to my car.

Huge oak trees formed a canopy over a wide pull off and I decided to enjoy my heavenly elixir picnic style.  I was rewarded with ice crystals in my first swallow…and the second.  I drained that amber potation in seconds.  I remember holding the still cold empty against my forehead, the condensation providing a cool bath.

After wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I twisted the top off the second and drained it almost as quickly.  The beer went straight to my head and I was still a dozen miles from home.

I broke the law, but the law didn’t win.  It was a different time and I was still young and stupid.  This wouldn’t be the last time I drove impaired but maybe God does take care of drunks and fools.  At this stage of my life, I was certainly equal parts of both.

It would be the last time I had a beer, two beers, so good.  Believe me, I’ve searched high and low, and stopped at the little country mercantile enough times during the summer that remained to find out the blond fireplug was named Ramona.  She was a nice lady with a boisterous laugh and a bawdy sense of humor.

Miller High Life, The Champagne of Bottle Beer.  I do love a crisp pilsner so cold you have to snap it off the bottom of an ancient Pepsi cooler.  I wonder…no…I’m sure it would be a wasted trip.  I’m sure the general mercantile only exists in my mind…just like the best beer I ever had.

6bf4dc5d857e7596f4fbc5c76aafa61c--beer-signs-tin-signs

Further wanderings may be found at Don Miller’s author’s page by going to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Oh Summer Days

 

“Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”- Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim

It is five in the a. m. and I’m standing outside smoking a cigar.  Don’t ask…it’s become the new, old normal.  Blame a life of getting old and blind puppy dogs who don’t know it is the middle of the night when they come looking for belly rubs and snacks…yes, they have trained me well.

Despite being as dark as the inside of a cow…whatever Mark Twain meant by that seems to be accurate although I’ve never actually been inside of a cow…anyway, despite being as dark as the inside of a cow, one could tell there were low clouds pressing down with humidity as thick as a wet, wool blanket.

I wonder who first used that descriptor and to my knowledge I’ve never worn a wet, wool blanket.  Dark and oppressively humid would have described the predawn morning but not nearly as colorfully and with many fewer words.  I also fear I will be submerged and drowning by mid-morning.  Ah, Southern summers.

We have been without more than a few drops of rain for over two weeks.  As warm, humid and still this morning is, I worry the fifty percent chance of thundershowers might become strong thunderstorms.  I also worry we will get no rain at all.

Except for a lone whippoorwill, there are no night sounds.  The lonesome bird is muted even though it is nearby.  “As quiet as the inside of a tomb”…ok, I’ll quit…maybe.

Later when the darkness has turned to a muted light, a woodpecker is beating its brains out against an oak tree but there are no chirps from the songbirds I normally hear.  Maybe the worms were resting in cooler places and the early birds had given up the hunt.

At five the thermometer read seventy-six, but it felt ten degrees warmer.  I decided to wander back inside to work on the next, great American novel.  Right.  I will settle for semi-great or even not so great, but “he has some potential”.  I’d really just like to sell a book to keep me interested.

By seven a. m. the sun might have been above the ridgeline to my east, but you couldn’t be sure.  Gray clouds hung low as I began my morning walk.  The humidity felt heavy against my skin and soon the cotton tee I shouldn’t have worn was saturated.  I’m a Southern male, I do not glisten.  I sweat like a horse and cotton does not wick well.

The air is heavy and still.  The surface of the lake I walk around as flat as a mirror.  Fish must be laying low, not even a ripple.  The sun comes out briefly causing the air to boil around me.  Sweat is now pooling in my unmentionables bathing certain parts in a wet, steamy and I’m sure yeasty film.  I probably should have added some Body Glide or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste before I left…too much information?

The campers I encounter are taking advantage of the relative cool of the foothills of the Blue Ridge at Lookup Lodge.  They are out and about and wondering if they were sold a bill of goods.  “Cool Mountain Mornings?”  These are kids along with their counselors, high schoolers or early college I think…maybe middle school, they all look so young and the sweat is fouling my eyes.

Normally blusterous, their movements are slow, and the usual raucous chattering muted as they line up for breakfast.  The smell of cinnamon rolls permeates the area and my salivary glands add to the relative humidity.

Around the lake, I find my way blocked by a downed tulip poplar laying across one of the wooden footbridges.  As I’m contemplating turning back a younger, female runner passes me and scrambles over the tree leaving me in her dust…humid dust.  She points out how stupid we are, “This is the most humid time of the day” she shouts over her shoulder.  The runner reminds of the days I used to run the same path stubbing my toes on various roots, crashing and burning.  Now I just walk and burn in the humidity. “Hot fun in the Summertime…” sings Sly Stone in my head.

She is correct about our stupidity and the humidity.  I’m reminded of my youthful, ‘early thirty’ mornings hoeing corn or chunkin’ hay bales onto a flatbed along the river bottoms. The heavy dew on broad corn leaves or narrow hay stubble seemed to melt into the air almost choking you with its warm thickness before dissipating into a dusty, dry, throat-searing heat by midmorning.

Julys and Augusts are oppressive in the South, slowing time to crawl.  Was it not for modern conveniences would time stop altogether?  Our ancestors survived with high ceilings, wide, tall windows and broad, tree-shaded verandas.  As a child, I survived with nothing more than a window fan exchanging hot air for hot air.  For some reason, the sun didn’t seem as hot nor the humidity as thick in the hazy fog of my memories.

Today I’m just thankful to have the choice to stay out in the thick, sticky humidity or come into the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  You can probably guess which one I will choose.

For more ramblings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured image is of Salvadore Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”  and was lifted from Flickr.

Waiting for Indian Summer

 

We are four days past the end of the “Dog Days” of summer…the calendar lies!  The “Dog Days” are the hot, humid, sultry, thunderstorm ridden days following the rise of Sirius the Dog Star.  I didn’t tell my puppy dogs the Dog Days were over, they would have thought I was lying.

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge it appears thirty-degree temperature swings with a good chance on thunderstorms by the middle of the week. Oh my! Bless your heart Mother Nature.  The arrow grass is a little worse from wear.

We had a small dose of fall like weather last week which makes this blast of heat and humidity hard to handle.  We are a month, minus four days, from the first day of fall…if we actually have a fall this year.  I really don’t want to wish my life away, but….  Later, after our first frost, there will be Indian Summer.

There was still a hint of fall this morning as I walked my three point two miles.  Sixty-eight degrees and a very light breeze originating from the north as I walked around Lookup Lake.  No leaves are changing, we are six weeks or so away from the start of that.  The temperature had risen quickly by the time I returned.  The yucca didn’t seem to mind the heat.

Despite the heat, butterflies were working “like crazy” on the yellow, gold or purple wild flowers marking my path.  A sure sign they know their time is limited.  Bees and small wasps seemed to be in frantic mode working on my woody hydrangea.  And those damn little bastard yellow jackets…one got me on the inside of my thigh.  Nothing on the wild daisy?

My path was blocked by spider webs as I made my way around the lake.  Sorry Mr. Orb Spider, I just wasn’t paying attention.  You’ve caught me, but I don’t think I’ll let you eat me.  I know you will build another web, you do so daily, but I hate to make your work harder.  I didn’t appreciate your webs until I found out you ate mosquitoes.

There are other colors too, reds, purples and whites.  Wild plants I’m unfamiliar with and the sickly-sweet smell of purple and white kudzu blooms.  It seems nothing can deter kudzu, not even the web worms covering one group of blooms.

I have no red tomatoes or yellow corn; my vegetables are done for the season.  I did notice my muscadine grapes were turning from green to bronze.  Soon they will turn a dull purple and it will be time for muscadine hull pie.  Yum!

Such is life.  Change is inevitable.  I am aware of life’s changes every time I glance in a mirror or stiffly crawl out of bed.  Like the changes in season I hope to make it to Indian Summer myself.

Image of the Coot, and all other images were taken by an “Old Coot” using his Android phone.  I’m sure you thought I was a professional…chortle, chortle.

More of Don Miller’s musings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Little Bastards

I really can’t think of much that I dislike about living in the South…ummmm…summertime humidity and mosquitoes can be found anywhere. Right? Sometimes we Southerners only have two seasons – “damn cold or damn hot” … occurring in just the blink of an eye. An old South Carolina saying tells us a lot about our climate. “If you don’t like the weather now just wait a minute. It will change.” I find this to be true during the spring and fall.

I remember a “damn Yankee” football player from the early 90’s who had joined us from one of the “I” states, Indiana I think, and who, before our first August football practice, explained to me that “I can handle the heat. It gets hot in Indiana, too.” An hour later, after his eyes had rolled back in his head, I was cooling him off with ice water soaked towels and forcing him to take sips of Gatorade. Yes, it does get hot in Indiana but, “It ain’t the heat in the South. It’s the humidity!”

When Linda Gail and I moved into our little “piece of heaven” we had no air conditioning. Open windows and ceiling fans moved warm and humid air and reminded us of our youth…except for the ceiling fans, we did not have during either one of our youths. More concerned with conserving heat during the wintertime, unlike” flat land country” farmhouses, ours had eight-foot ceilings instead of ten footers and late in the day, our lower ceilings would trap heat. A lot of late evenings were spent talking on the porch until it was cool enough to go to bed. A breeze might bring the smell of honeysuckle while we listened to the cicadas and other night sounds. I might enjoy a cigar while staying hydrated with a few adult beverages…until the mosquitoes came for dinner. No matter how much citronella we burned or how many fans we used, the little blood suckers seemed to always find us…and still do.

Mosquitoes are just a fact of life in the South and I praise God they don’t grow to the size of vultures. On a trip to the coast, I remember making an impromptu nature call where the only facility available was an old fire road in the middle of a pine forest off South Carolina’s Highway 17. As I completed my task, I looked down to ensure nothing got caught in the zipper and could see a cloud of mosquitoes attempting to make off with my man part. Itchy and it was in November! F&%K it! I DID zip up too quickly! For some reason, Linda Gail thought it was hilarious until the little vampires who had followed me into the car decided she was sweeter meat than I was. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.

We have “stinging” insects too. Wasps, hornets, bees, even a little bitty thing that might be called a “no see um” … if I could see um’. Generally, I dislike them all. Specifically, I hate the yellow jacket. The little “bastards!” They are small hornets who build nests underground, under leaves or in hollow stumps. Related to bald-faced hornets and common wasps, they are much faster, more aggressive and make a honey bee sting seem like a French kiss from your beloved. If you step into a yellow jacket’s nest, you will not get stung once but several times and the little bastards will pursue you. Talk about holding a grudge.
The first time I stepped into a nest I got stung a dozen times, all from the knees down. When I finished beating them off of me I found my legs covered in “stinging” whelps that slowly, over a matter of days, turned into itchy, oozing wounds that resembled cigarette burns despite being treated with Linda Gail’s “old time remedy,” chewing tobacco and Arm and Hammer soda. This was also despite initially wearing heavy blue jeans, boots and heavy socks. I say initially because I “shucked” my pants quickly.

Over time I have found it better to wear shorts. You get stung fewer times before being alerted to “run like hounds of hell” are after you and the wounds are not nearly as bad. It’s as if the yellow jackets, when met with “blue jean” resistance, really got pissed off. I stepped into a nest while using my weed eater near the back door of the house one morning. Luckily, I saw the cloud of “little bastards” erupt from their hole and I ran for the safety of our closed in back porch. Yelling, slapping and running, somehow all at the same time, I found my “beloved” slamming the door in my face and screaming, “Don’t bring them in here!” Thank you SOOOOOO very much.

As I related in an earlier story I am not the only one to run afoul of the “little bastards.” One of my goats stuck his nose into a yellow jacket’s nest and received numerous stings to the head and neck. With a leather collar around his neck, the swelling had nowhere to go causing his head to swell, and swell and swell. By the time I rescued him, his head was the size of a basketball and I was afraid he would begin to chock if I did not release him from the collar. As soon as I cut through the collar his head began to “deflate” and I worried that he would die when the poison hit his heart. He didn’t and just went back to eating. Goats are simple creatures…unlike my wife who would have let the goat come in regardless of how many yellow jackets followed him. It’s good to know where I rate on her hierarchy of animals that she loves.

Few things that I hate about the South? I just got my first yellow jacket sting of the summer. Luckily, just one and I have found their little underground lair of pain. I will make the “little bastards” pay when night time falls. I will come calling with my little can of “payback” and for a brief time there will be one less thing to hate about the South.

This is an excerpt from the book “Through the Front Gate”
Don Miller has also written other books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM