The Good Ole Summertime
By Bill Shepard
The good ole summertime is upon us and I’d give a gold nickel (if l had one) just to be a boy again. Ah, what I wouldn’t give to be once again a boy and relive just one of those summers of my childhood years. The last day at school had ended, grades had been tallied, and announcements made as to who would be where the next year. The next school year seemed light years away and no thought would be given to it for a long, long time. Now it was time to get on with the summer time activities. First on the agenda was to kick off the heavy brogan shoes that had been a burden since last fall when the weather turned cold. Then to seek out my old fishing cane where I had stored it when school began last September. It would need a new black flax line and a shiny hook and sinker to replace the ones that had rusted during the long damp winter. It wouldn’t be long now before I’d fill an empty tomato can with the earthworms that could be dug at the place where Mom emptied her dishwater every day after finishing with the dishes. My first trip to the deep forest where the meandering stream beckoned, I would need to carry a hoe with which to clear out the undergrowth that had taken over since I was there last. I could hardly wait!
There were other things to do now that summer was here. There would be chores of hoeing grass from the garden, pulling weeds for the pigs Dad would have recently bought from a farmer in the country. He always purchased two and by Thanksgiving and Christmas, they would have grown into large hogs. It was fun to watch the piglets chew on the tender butterweeds I had pulled for them, but sometimes that chore got in the way of other things I wanted to do.
And what would summer be without the ole swimmin-hole, referred to as the wash hole. I believe there was one in every mill village community that I ever knew about. In a crowd of old timers from a mill village anywhere, just to mention the word wash-hole and you could settle back and listen to tales told for hours. I have lived on and near to mill villages nearly all of my life and I’ve never been to one that did not have a swimmin-hole in a creek or river nearby. Going to the wash-hole in my hometown when I was a boy was more fun than Disney World, or walking the grand- strand at Myrtle Beach. I’ve said it before, that little creek was my Mississippi to sail on, swim in, and explore. Sitting on a floating log, it was not hard to pretend that I was a character from my storybook and drifting along the Mississippi or the Amazon, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for a ride on the real Mississippi!
The Good Ole Summertime was also the time for picking cotton and working in tobacco; the money earned would be used to purchase my school books for the next school year, and some new overalls to replace the ones that had seen their best wear!
Perhaps the best part of the summer-times was just being free to roam the fields, pastures, and woodlands without the thought of being shut up in school all day. To awake in the morning, do my chores at hand, and then be off for wild plum hunting, black-berry picking, or just chasing grass-hoppers to be used for fish bait was the high-light of my summer.
Of course, I’m just dreaming! I’m too old for such things now. My arthritis wouldn’t appreciate me taking it to a cotton field and my legs surely wouldn’t want to chase grass hoppers. As for as a visit to the wash-hole, I doubt that I could find it. No, I’ll just settle for the hot-tub, and listen to the voices of children happy at play. The cold winter has passed, and springtime has given way to Summer. Now is time for summer fun for the young and a time to reminisce for the old. So I’ll just sit here in the tub and soak my arthritis and think of the time when summer was a lot more fun.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673.