The Hot Summer-A Story From my Youth


This summer is a hot and dry season thus far. I cannot remember a time in the past twenty years when we have gone so long without some significant rain. At least in this day and age, we can go inside the house, seeking the solace of air conditioning which brings the indoor temperature to a cool 72 degrees. It wasn’t always that way.

Back in my childhood, from the time I was twelve, on up until the summer before my Senior year in High School, I would spend a lot of time at my Grandparent’s house in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I know some of you have read some of my recollections of them which I have shared. They were my Mom’s parents, and if you know where Blue Ridge is located, you will realize that they are Georgia “mountain” people. Scotch, German and English in descent, they were also pretty frugal country people.

Grandpa built their house back in the early 1900’s, in an age when there was no indoor plumbing, and no electricity. I barely remember the days before the “electric” was installed. I was very young. I do remember the outhouse very well. I remember many a hectic trip out to the little shack early in the morning. I remember swatting away many a yellow jacket, honey bee and hornet during the summer time too. Those critters really had an affinity for that location for some reason. I couldn’t figure out why back then, I just didn’t want to get stung on the butt!

The hot summers, such as this one we are suffering through now, were hard to endure in the old wooden house of my Grandparents, because they never had air conditioning of any type. Back in those days you would cool off by drinking cold well water, sitting on the front porch, or seeking the shelter of a shady spot somewhere in the trees. There were box fans, and window fans later on, but everyone knows those things simply move around hot air. We sweated. A lot.

The evenings were the best times. The times after the sun would sink below the tree line behind Grandpa’s house, and things would start to cool of somewhat. You could get a glass of sweet tea most of the time and finally cool down a little bit. Sleeping wasn’t easy though, especially for we kids, because we had to sleep in the “upstairs” bedrooms, and everyone knows that heat rises. It truly does. We lay in bed and we sweated. A lot.

Most of the time during the days, in the summers I spent there, I would go “play” in the cold, clear creek which ran in front of Grandpa’s house. It was so cold, even on the hottest summer day. I “fell” in the creek a lot. I drank from the pure spring water which ran in that creek, an accumulation of many, many smaller springs on further up in the mountains which gathered together and converged into that fast flowing creek. It was better than any swimming pool in which I have ever swam.

I remember the last summer I stayed up there, the one before my Senior year in High School. My Grandparents were getting older. At least it seemed so. As I consider it now, I realize that in 1967 my Grandma was 68 years old. Grandpa was 75. That seemed ancient to me back then. Looking at it from my viewpoint today, those ages don’t seem all that old.

Grandma had 32 years more to live. My children got to know her quite well. She came to my daughter’s wedding in December of 1991. Grandpa lived another 23 years, and my children also got to know him pretty well. I have photos of them running around up at my Grandparents when they were teenagers, although by that time, the old house was gone. It had gotten blown over by a tornado in 1973, and was replaced by a trailer.

Grandpa never was satisfied with that trailer. I remember him having quite a few choice words to say about that place. It just wasn’t like having his old house.

Grandpa Stewart was quite a good singer and I remember one of the songs which he like to sing back in those days was “This Old House” it was a semi religious country ballad, comparing an old house to the human body. The lyrics are at the end of this writing. Grandpa didn’t know at that time that he was going to lose his memory to dementia in his final years. He couldn’t remember who he was, where he was and anything about his life. It’s a hard, hard way to go…and hard on the people who love you.

Even though he lived in that trailer quite a number of years before he finally ended up going to the nursing home, I can trace some of his problems back to the years right after he lost his old house. He had owned quite a bit of land back in his early days also, and as he had to sell off land in order to pay bills, many of them due to medical problems, I could see how it ate at him. Those of us with Scottish, Irish, English and German blood…especially the Scots though, and he was a Stewart…. those of us are tied to the land, and our homes like Scarlett O’Hara was tied to Tara. It’s a hard thing for a lot of people to understand, but the memories of our lives are rooted deeply and emotionally to the place where those memories happened. Grandpa knew this, and felt this. In the end, his lost his memories and everything that he was.

My Grandmother hung on, and lived in that trailer on her homestead late into her nineties. She didn’t want to go to the nursing home when she was in her mid-nineties. She could still do for herself, she said! She had fallen a couple of times though, and the family was afraid for her. She always resented being in the nursing home, and greatly enjoyed visits from her family, especially when it involved going out to eat. “I hate this old nursing home food” she would say. She died at 100 years of age on December 16 1999. If she had lived until January 1st, she would have been one of the few people who would have lived in three different centuries, as she had been born in August of 1899. My Mom only survived her by barely ten years.

Grandma was of that same English, Scottish heritage of people who loved the land, and were tied to it emotionally and physically. I’m not sure how many people in this day and age are like those old folks. Not nearly as many now as there were back in their day.

So, as I near the age at which my Grandparents were when Grandpa would sing his song, I can empathize with how they felt, how my own parents felt; I guess how we all feel when we get some “years” under our belt.

Things change, and I am like they were and don’t do well with change. My daughter told me that yesterday, and she was quite right.

I do however, realize that everything does change and there is often good which comes along with it. There are benefits and there are some things which lay in the balance, and you have to wait to see on which side of the scale the weight is thrown.

All my love to all those I have known, and to those who I now know, and those who I will know, but have not yet met. Life is wonderful.

“This Ole House”

This ole house once knew his children

This ole house once knew a wife

This ole house was home and comfort

As we fought the storms of life

This old house once rang with laughter

This old house heard many shouts

Now she trembles in the darkness

When the lightnin’ walks about

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer)

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more)

Ain’t got time to fix the shingles

Ain’t a-got time to fix the floor

Ain’t got time to oil the hinges

Nor to mend no windowpane

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer

She’s a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

This ole house is gettin’ shaky

This ole house is gettin’ old

This ole house lets in the rain

This ole house lets in the cold

On my knees I’m gettin’ chilly

But I feel no fear nor pain

‘Cause I see an angel peekin’

Through the broken windowpane

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer)

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more)

Ain’t got time to fix the shingles

Ain’t a-got time to fix the floor

Ain’t got time to oil the hinges

Nor to mend no windowpane

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer

She’s a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

This ole house is afraid of thunder

This ole house is afraid of storms

This ole house just groans and trembles

When the night wind flings out its arms

This ole house is gettin’ feeble

This old house is needin’ paint

Just like me it’s tuckered out

But I’m a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

Lyrics by Stuart Hamblin…originally recorded by Rosemary Clooney


Tenderness instead of Hate.

I think I see it a lot these days, all over the place in so many different situations. People’s hearts seem to be hardened against other people. Look out there, it won’t take you long to see it. Someone who could let you into traffic, cuts you off…maybe gives you the finger..when they could have easily let you in. Folks walk with their face down at the local store…never smiling, never looking up, not giving you any chance to smile or say hello.

Our fellow Americans seem like the two little guys in the old “Mad” Magazine comic strip “Spy-vs-spy” The right hates the left, the left hates the right and both of them hate the middle. I hate that word HATE…I’m trying my best to totally erase it from my vocabulary. It’s really tough though, one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to do.

I think the answer is tenderness. Just tenderness, that’s it. Consider this: “Because your heart was tender, and you have humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard what I spoke against this place . . . I also have heard you, says the Lord” (2 Kings 22:19) God heard Josiah’s plea because his heart was TENDER. Read the story, it’s there. I’m not usually one to post Bible verses, or post “posters” with verses or other stuff. Sometimes I share other people’s, but rarely. But in this case, I believe the verse is totally appropriate to our day and age. If we as human beings do NOT develop a little “tenderness” towards others, then I think all may be lost. I’m not really sure that human beings can even do it. There is so much War, so much callousness of heart since the beginning of civilization. And it continues.

Even with all we know, with all we have learned we cannot, or have not been able to learn this one small, tiny little thing. Love, tenderness, caring over hate, callousness, indifference. Can we? It starts with little things…it does not have to be “world peace” like all the Beauty Queens wish for at the pageants. “Please, Thank You, and How are You Today?” would be a great start. Giving money to someone who doesn’t have a dime for a meal would be a start. Forgiving someone who has wronged you would be a start.

Then..only then, can we take the next step. There can be “Peace on Earth, Good will towards Men” But only if we “try a little Tenderness”