As we approach the "Dog Days" of August, I are reminded of how much I disliked the eighth month of the year. As a youngster, it was when school was about to start and it was too hot to do anything outside much. Of course it was hotter in the house because we still didn't have air conditioning yet, so we played outside anyway and looked for a good shade tree and a garden hose to cool us down. We didn't really know anything about a heat index back then and, when I begged my mom to take us swimming, she always answered with, "It's Dog Days. You can't swim during Dog Days."
Why? Why couldn't you swim during the Dog Days of August? It was literally the hottest time of the year and we can't swim? I never got an answer to these questions. Just a big old NO! So I was forced to accept the fact that I would swelter for a few more weeks until the weather cooled down after Labor Day, then it was back to school.
My memories of school weren't that much better back then. Unlike today, we didn't start back to school until September and it wasn't really that much cooler. I remember being in a classroom with 25-30 other kids, no air conditioning, windows open and sweat rolling down our faces while we tried to sit quietly and do our school work. The best time of the day was recess when you could at least be outside for a while and hope for a cool breeze every now and then. When recess was over, it was back inside to melt down again until it was time to go home where you would sit and sweat until the darkness cooled things down a bit. While we didn't have air conditioning until I was a teenager, we did have fans in the house. I remember the whirring sound of a fan as it stirred up the air in the house, making things a little bit cooler.
Football practice always started in August, during "Dog Days." I would walk home from practice drenched in sweat, and I always stopped at a little grocery store on my mile and a half trek from school to home. I would buy a quart of orange drink and drink it on my way. There was no bottled water back then and I was warned by my dad that Cokes weren't good to quench your thirst so it was orange drink or lemonade. I preferred the orange drink because lemonade was a little too sour when you were dying of thirst. Sometimes I bought both, drank the orange drink on the way home and drank the lemonade when I arrived.
Remembering those times makes it seem much worse than they were. It's every bit as hot now, maybe even hotter, but with every building you walk in now, including your home being cooled by air conditioning, you hardly ever notice how hot it is until you step outside. It may be "Dog Days" now, but when I want to go get in my pool, I do, never thinking about my mother's warning of "Dog Days" some 60 years ago. The only thing missing is that good, cold carton of orange drink.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org