Nowadays at my age, the long hot summer days are just not as much fun as they used to be when I was a kid. Back then we really had nice long breaks from school. None of that six or seven weeks out, and then right back in the school building. Back in “the old days” we had three FULL months out for summer break.
None of that year round school for us old timers! May 31 rolled around, and it’s see ya’ later to the teachers until the first week of September….Yahooo!! Heck, that was so long, I forgot most of what I’d learned the year before in school! I think that’s why the first six weeks every school year back in the good old days were “review” weeks. “Reteaching” weeks for some pretty good school teachers. But, we made it through, and I wouldn’t take anything for the memories of those long, hot summer days back when I was young.
I tell you, spring and summers were the best back in the 50’s and 60s’.
I would go to the old wooden toy box back in my room, and starting digging down to the bottom, looking for my old worn out, smelly leather baseball glove with “Pee Wee” Reece’s name engraved in it. I don’t know how I ended up with Pee Wee, as I never played a lick of ball in the infield. I was always an outfielder.
I tried out for third base once, but after I had stopped the first four hard bouncer’s that came my way with my face instead of my glove, the coach thought it might be safer to put me in left field. I agree with his decision.
I liked left field. It was one of those positions where you could kind of day dream a little. Most everything that came out that way was either an easy pop fly, or a one bouncer. I was a cinch at catching those. None of that “hot corner” stuff for me.
I once was standing out in left field during a game and looking down at the ground trying to spot any four leaf clovers that might be growing there. I heard the loud crack of the bat, and looked up to see the baseball headed over my head. Way over my head. I didn’t want to look completely stupid, so I turned around and stuck my old glove out and ran as fast as I could towards the fence. The ball dropped right into the webbing of my glove. I never saw it until it did. I heard a cheer go up from the stands, and when we came in, I got more pats on the back, and attaboys then I had ever gotten before. I just said “I had it all the way”
I could never bring myself to disappoint all those people by telling them it was just pure luck.
The other great thing about warm weather was spring lizard and craw dad hunting at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house. When warm weather hit, we would go up there a lot more often. It was difficult during the winter time, because there were only two bedrooms downstairs at their house, which meant the remainder of the guests, had to sleep upstairs. During the winter time, sleeping upstairs was just like sleeping outside. There was NO heat. I spent many a winter night with 10 quilts piled on top of me, unable to turn over, but desperately trying to conserve what little body heat was emanating from me in order to be alive the next morning. I always managed to do it somehow.
So, besides at Christmas, I didn’t like Winter time visiting at the old folk’s house!
But with spring and warm weather coming, there was the promise of fishing, and in order to fish there had to be bait. This meant my favorite activities of digging in the dirt for worms, and turning over the rocks down in the little fast running creek in front of the folk’s house for Spring lizards and Crawdads.
The only draw back to trying to catch a bucket full of these water dwelling creatures was that they were also favorites of the snakes that prowled the banks of that same creek. I was never really too afraid of snakes when I was a kid until after my Grandpa’s Uncle “Lark” Davenport killed a rattlesnake one day that he stretched across the old dirt road leading up to Grandpa’s house.
He stuck its head end in the bank on one side, and its tail end in the dirt bank on the other side. Now, that little old road was narrow, but I estimate it was at least 7 feet across, so my respect for the snakes in those parts increased tremendously after that. I asked Uncle “Lark” how he killed it, and told me he cut its head off with a hoe while he was out in his corn crib. Apparently the rattler was stocking up on some of the rats that always frequented that place. “If he hadn’t been a rattler I’d have let him be,” said Uncle Lark. I’d have let him be anyway, I think. He would have owned the corn crib after that. Rats and all.
Some of those spring lizards that we used to catch back then were as big as small snakes. Imagine turning over a big old rock, and seeing something black wiggling around that’s about a foot long. Would you stick your hand down in there and grab it? I sure did, and laughed about it the whole time. “If the bass don’t bite that,” I thought “then it might bite the bass!” Either way, we get the fish.
The crawdads were harder to catch then the spring lizards. Have you ever seen one of those little boogers take off? They are like a backwards rocket! I don’t know how they do it, but when they get scared they shoot water out their rear ends, start flapping their tails and away they go. You had to be good at estimating where they were GOING to be, not where they had been, in order to catch them. I never had the least idea that humans ate those things when I was a kid. The first time I went to Louisiana as an adult, and someone tried to serve me a dish made with Crawdads, I got kind of nauseated. After I tasted it though, it wasn’t half bad. I kind of like Etouffe’ now.
Yep, that’s how I feel today with all this heat in the air. I remember how cold that creek water was, even on the hottest of June, July and August days. I remember how I would even dare to reach down and bring a handful of that pungent water up to my mouth and drink it in deeply.
My blood is partially made from that creek water, and my soul is partially lodged in that mountain land.
That little old creek is still there, but I don’t know what the new owners of the land would think about an old man tromping down the middle of their creek with a Styrofoam bucket and yelling yahoo every time he came up with a lizard.
I wonder if there are even any left?