“Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy”
Updated: May 6, 2020
I was reared in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri where the mountain streams are gravel and sand bottomed making them crystal clear, flowing swiftly into larger rivers also gravel and sand bottomed and clear. That’s the waterways I spent my youth exploring.
We lived on the river in summer, in a converted air show snack bus, (a poor man’s RV) and I was outside as much as ten hours a day same as most kids. I thought it was a great life.
In the Ozarks of my youth, we had four distinct seasons. Summer was four months long with hot, hazy days and clear, crisp, cool nights. We had our share of ticks and although we had mosquitoes I don’t remember them being particularly troublesome, like here in Wisconsin.
I do remember poisonous snakes, bobcats, crawdads that pinched like anything, chiggers that would dig down deep and make you crazy with itch till you thought you’d scream, poison ivy, compulsory blackberry picking and sunburns. Even so, I didn’t start not-liking summer weather until I was a grownup.
Though what I’m about to say about myself has always been true, it seems even more pertinent now. My hair is pale, my skin is thin, my eyes are light blue and I can’t open them fully in a sun filled room much less out-of-doors (it’s a rods and cones thing),
Many of you will say I miss so much, but consider this. Since I’ve become a not-liking-summer-weather adult, I haven’t been sunburned once, consequently I haven’t had a melanoma and probably never will. I haven't had a tick bite, haven't had a chigger bite, haven't had poison ivy, and the list goes on.
That said, I love it that you all love summer heat and no one loves summer more than a Wisconsinite or a Minnesotan. Folk love to eat outside, fish, ski and go to outdoor functions, and I applaud your tenacity when it comes to the battle against the mosquitoes.
Here’s a poem I wrote about my childhood summertime life in the Ozarks.
At Water’s Edge
The rusty truck careens down the final hill. Favorite swimming hole greets us with clean, watery fragrance sensed through open mouths.
“Sit down; sit down!,” our mother yells out the truck window, her arms making a downward motion; sign language resembling prehistoric water fowl landing.
We think, rightly, that this sparkling river must be seen from the best seats dearly paid for with bugs in our hair.
So, we stand and bounce like stones on the flatbed truck, our rebellion bound to incur wrath. We are careless.
It’s an old ceremony accompanied by a consequential slap; a ritual most ancient
and highly revered.
Rites received, we are waterborne.
Gliding, splashing, bluff-diving, arms flapping, we jig dance precision steps in the icy current.
I look up to see my siblings, whose protests belie their blue lips, banished to sun on the riverbank lest hypothermia rob our mother.
Meanwhile, where hidden creatures of the eerie deep keep their secrets, I am satisfied to poke at rocks, quietly hunting for crawdad, alone at water’s edge.