The last week of July was uncommonly cool, but we’ll still have the fragrance ridden nights that are filled with the smell of honeysuckle. Nothing stirs the memory for me quite like the odor of honeysuckle and lilac.
I recall crushed and faded flowers in the old family Bible, maybe alongside a curl clipped from the head of a loved one. And, the old Sycamore tree that has my initials, with hers, carved into the bark. That old tree is still standing. How many families of hawks have lived there in its lofty branches? How many times has the old tree heard the raucous cawing of crows or the first chatter of a fox squirrel’s young during the passing years?
July is a fine time to go about cherishing all your favorite memories so as to build a cushion for your coming old age. Now here comes August with her full, lazy, warm days and star-studded nights, filled with the rasping of the Cicadas. August is the old age of summer, it is a good time to plant a rocking chair in the shade of a live oak tree and let the last month of summer lull you into contentment.
Recently while fishing the upper Illinois, I watched canoe after canoe filled with partying teenagers and young people float past my fishing spot. I inquired of my fishing partner, “wouldn’t you like to trade places with those young ‘uns?” He stared thoughtfully at the water a little while then said, “No, I don’t believe I would. They have yet to climb all those rugged hills that we have already climbed. They think life’s all peaches and cream, bu they’ll have more trouble in an hour than I’ve had in my whole life. Let them have the youth, I’ll be perfectly content to just sit here in the shade and watch them rush through life.”
August is also the time for school to start. At least that’s the way it was in the country schools when I was attending school.
Country schools let the students out earlier than the schools in town, so we always ended up starting back in the middle of the dog days of summer.
My first grade teacher was one of my heroines. Well, let’s put things in a plainer light—I was head over heels in love with her. She was a petite woman, soft and she smelled cuddly. She taught me to read and write, and to cipher my numbers. She was awfully proud of my reading prowess because she would take me into another room filled with older students and have me read to them.
Grades 1 and 2 had one room in elementary school, grades 3, 4, and 5 were in the second room. Grade 6, 7, and 8 were taught by a male teacher and that’s where the elite were firmly entrenched–the softball team.
I swore that I would make that ball club someday. Little did I know that to make the team all you needed was a warm body. School attendance was at such a low that we even played girls on our team, and as I recall they were pretty good players, too. One thing that I learned about girls by playing ball with them, was that softball is just a game and not a life or death situation. And that an 8th grade girl certainly fills out a softball uniform better than a guy
But back to my first grade teacher. She used to capture all the guys and comb their hair just before the school photographer took our pictures every year. I didn’t fight too hard on these occasions, just a small token struggle to let the other guys know that I was all he-man. She would pull me to her breasts, comb my hair into a big pompadour all the while telling me how cute I was. I was determined to marry that woman and put her in such a nice place that she wouldn’t have to look at anyone else but me. I don’t know which was the bigger heartbreak, finding out she was already married, with a daughter near my own age, or the fact that she told all the guys how cute they were.
Gypsying about the backroads of Eastern Oklahoma I recently saw a sad sight. A motorist had run over a small mongrel dog while hurrying on his way to get nowhere and to do nothing when he got there. A small waif-like boy weeped by the dog’s side.
Having raised two sons myself, and helping them to bury at least nine of their pets, I could empathize with the young boy. I thought of a line from a poem that my own sons used to read at the funerals of their pets:
“Don’t worry master, I am here, out in the backyard under the bright grass where you left me.
It’s been a long year since I drowsed at your feet.
It is good now to feel them pressing the earth above me, like a warm quilt.”
August is a good time to start neglecting your garden that you worked so hard to get started. The sun is like molten lead and if you stay out in it too long it will cook your brains. The weeks and long grasses are firmly ensconced in good old Mother Terra-Firma and need a most firm hand to discourage them to grow another foot or so overnight.
Art Webster is a first class Water Witch. He has drilled hundreds of water wells and has yet to come up with a dry hole. I will be his witness on this, since I have helped him drill at least a dozen or so, and we hit water on everyone.
I’ve tried witching but can’t seem to get the hang of it although my brother claims to be able to feel the pull of the water. He said it feels like a hand reaches up from the ground and gently grabs hold of that stick and pulls it down. “It’s eerie,” he says, “you can’t hardly pull the stick back up. You have to back away.”
No doubt water witching is almost as old as time itself. If you are a non-believer you should hurry to the nearest library and pick up some information on the subject. You may be a first class Water Witch your own self and not even know it.
Have a good August.
written by R.L. Briggs on August 3, 1996