The late summer days are always the most brutal. August rolls around and any hope you have of cooler weather is dashed to the ground with one look at the thermometer on the porch. In fact, it’s better that you don’t look. It’ll just make you cranky.
Cranky comes in all shapes and sizes during the month of August. The kids get cranky because their freedom is about to be surrendered to some middle aged lady who’s going to make sure they can do Algebra. No more sleeping in late. No more staying up late. You gotta get up before daylight and get dressed in the dark. And if you’re lucky, your Mom will take you school so you don’t have to ride in the mayhem of the school bus.
To make matters worse, the teachers get cranky. These guys and gals are heroes, but they have their limits, you know. How would you like to be facing a room full of little maniacs who have been quarantined for five months at home, and all of a sudden they descend on your world. Mama and Daddy got tired of the home school gig about three weeks into it. These kids now have to toe the line and you, the teacher, are the one who is going to make sure it happens. Either in person or virtually.
And it’s hot. The school AC is not built for the first week of August. The School Board is tightening down on expenses and the Principals have all been told to keep the thermostat at 78ᵒ and keep the box locked.
Back when I was in elementary school, there was no AC. No one ever thought of starting school in August. Who would want to do that? You wait until Labor Day, and at least you have a chance.
“Miss Cuttie, can we crank a window open? It’s awful hot in here.”
Miss Cuttie Peebles was my second grade teacher. I thought of her as a spinster who probably started her teaching career when Calvin Coolidge was President. As far as we kids knew, none of our teachers had husbands or a life of any kind outside of the classroom. To see a teacher at the grocery store was as strange as seeing an alien from Mars.
I was sure that she was old. She had flabby arms that wiggled when she wrote on the chalk board. Her short hair was jet black and her lipstick fire engine red. Miss Cuttie wore lots of jewelry. Bright red ear rings that matched her lips and hung down from her ear lobes like fishing lures. Large beaded bracelets and necklaces that jingled when she moved around the room.
But she was a sweatheart. None nicer than Miss Cuttie.
“You two boys. Y’all get up quietly and open the windows. Rosilee, you turn on the fan. Now eyes up front and let’s get back to our spelling words.”
We could see the other kids out on the playground from the windows in our room. Our recess was 30 minutes away, which might as well have been days. The fact that it was hotter than Hades never seemed to matter much when you were playing kickball, but try spelling “curiosity” when it’s 98ᵒ inside. C-U-R-A-H-S-U-T-E-E. See what I mean.
And that was in September. But this is August. I’d be cranky, too.
Mowing the lawn in August was a death sentence for a kid. Dad suggested I start early, which really wasn’t a suggestion at all. “Get on up and get it done while it’s cool.”
Cool? Really? I walk out the back door when the dew is still on the ground and it’s already 80ᵒ and the humidity is beaded up on everything you touch. By the time I gassed up and pulled the starter cord three times my glasses were fogged up and my tennis shoes were wet.
I had been push mowing the yard all summer. Making circles in the front for over an hour, and still the back yard is waiting on me. I was ready for Fall, but I tried not to think about it. It’s Saturday and there’s a watermelon in a tub of ice on the step to the back porch. Every time I make a round I walk past that watermelon. It’s a prize waiting on me to get done. It’s like waiting on November when you’re in the middle of the hottest day on earth. That’s August.
August is also the month for chiggers. Some folks call them red bugs. They are demons from the dark side and they burro inside your socks and into the unmentionable places on the human body. They are not bugs, but they are mites. A microscopic cousin to the tic. They drill down under the skin and leave you scratching like a mad man.
My wife and I drove up to Hampton last weekend. A survey had been done on the home place just east of the Towilaga headed toward Locust Grove. No one knows when the place was surveyed last. Generations ago, I suppose. I wanted to see if the survey crew put the pin markers where I knew they should be.
Old fence rows run pretty close to the line, but the fence corners, so my Dad taught me, were not accurate, especially on the back side of the farm. Since the 1800s no one had ever really worried about where the real corners were. A fence post being 100 ft. off didn’t seem to matter in the middle of the woods. Frank Greer, and David Walker, and Billy Chappell were not going to waist one minute fretting over a property line.
So, Beth and I walked. We walked through overgrown pastures, down through tall stands of Hickory and Oak. We stepped through creeks and pushed our way along old cow paths cut into the ground. And we got back in the truck and headed home.
It wasn’t long, my wife spoke up. “I’ve got little bitty critters crawling on me.” We stopped at a cousins house so she could privately do a proper check. By evening we were both covered in tiny little red bumps that over the next few days turned into 8 zillion little red bumps that itched like the world was on fire.
You would gasp in horrified disbelief if I showed you my ankles right now. I have become a Benadryl junkie. There’s not enough clear nail polish to cover all the dots we’ve got on our bodies. We are covered in anti-itch lotion. We bathe in stuff made to peal paint off old Buicks. But the itch just keeps on giving. But, hey. We should’ve known. It’s August.
My buddy asks me, “What did the forecast say this morning? I didn’t have time to watch.”
“I don’t know. No need to watch it anyway. Ain’t gonna change anything.”
And that’s true. The forecast for the next 30 days is hot and humid with a chance of more hot and humid in the afternoon. An occasional thunder storm that will blow the roof off the well house and drop Pecan limbs all over the back yard. Then the sun will come out and the humidity levels will cause grown men to hallucinate about moving to Canada.
I’m going to wait until the sun goes down to mow my grass. I’ll be soaking wet right down to my drawers, but as least I won’t get sun burnt. Take a shower. Then a dose of Benadryl.
That, my friends, is August. Come oooooon Nooovember.