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Dog days of summer

The dog days of summer had a way of taking away some of the pleasure my brothers and me had entertaining ourselves when we were growing up on our family farm in East Central Alabama.

The last days of summer went by ever so slowly for us boys, for several reasons.

First, we had to cope with the hottest and driest days of the year. It was not unusual for temperatures to soar above 100 degrees in the daytime and never fall below 75 degrees at night. The best hope for much needed rainfall was a pop-up thundershower that stopped before it reached our farm more times than not.

With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees at bedtime, going to sleep was a struggle.

Four of us five boys shared a single bedroom with no air conditioning, ceiling fan or insulation. Thank goodness for two open windows with screens to keep out flies and mosquitoes. We tried dousing our heads with a pan of cold water – or sometimes pouring that cold water on the front porch floor and lying in it for several minutes before hitting the beds. What saved the day was pulling our double beds together, positioning our heads in front of an open window and daring not let our bodies meet.

Secondly, we had to deal with the cuts, bruises and carbuncles that came with independent living in an unhealthy environment. At least one of us boys was suffering from a cut foot, stone bruise or blood infection during dog days. All of us felt the impact since we went places and did things as a team. When one of us went down, all of us were grounded. 

We had no answer for our misfortune, but some of our relatives were quick to provide an answer. They thought our problems were the result of going barefooted, not eating properly and going swimming in dirty creek water.

Thirdly, dog days would have been more bearable had we been relieved of our daily chores and allowed to spend more time playing horseshoes, shooting marbles and swinging under the big oak tree in our front yard. Instead, we were tasked to make better use of our time. 

We put our backs and hands to work picking row after row of butterbeans and field peas. After that, we got to rest while shelling them under the shade of the oak tree.

Finally, the cotton fields were growing whiter with each passing day, and we were reminded of the backbreaking work still to be done during the harvest season.

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