The Good Ole Summertime

By Bill Shephard

The good ole summertime is here folk and there is not a doubt to be found about that! It was a bit slow in arriving but it seems anxious to be moving on! By the time anyone is reading this the big yellow buses will be rumbling along front and back roads, a sure sign that summer is winding down. Sleepy-eyed children can be seen standing by roadsides awaiting their arrival and questioning as to where this summer went! It seemed such a short time ago that they were spending their last day at school before starting their summer vacation! Now, it is over!

When I was a boy summer vacations were longer than they are today. School ended on the last day of May and reopened in mid-September! There were more than three months to enjoy the “good ole summertime!” Ah, what fun to hurry home from school, pull off my shoes and run barefoot in the yard. The feeling of the cool earth squeezed between my toes was pure ecstasy!

How good it would feel on that first Monday morning in June to lie in bed and think of all the things I could do in the long summer days ahead. To be sure there were chores around the house to be done but the long summer days gave time to do them all, yet provided time for my own use. The poet Longfellow could have pointed his finger straight at me when he began writing his poem about a barefoot boy! Here are just a few lines from that poem. Read along with me as I copy……

“Blessings on thee little man, barefoot boy with cheeks of tan.
With thy turned up pantaloons and the merry whistled tunes,
With thy red lips, redder still, kissed by strawberries on the hill.
From my heart I give thee joy, I was once a barefoot boy?
Ah, to be a boy again and follow along the paths of yesteryear; paths that led to my favorite fishing places along Swift Creek. I would need to be aware of the long black moccasins that were plenteous along the banks of the little creek.

I would also go in search of the wild plums that ripened each year where they grew along the edge of the pasturelands and plowed fields. I would be sure to gather enough to bring some home. Mama would make jelly from them. It would be so good when spread inside one of Mama’s biscuits. I would also go in search for the blackberries that grew in abundance along the damp ditch banks and along the banks of Swift Creek. I knew all of their hiding places!

In the good ole summertime, boys and girls from the village would earn their spending money by working in the farmers’ fields. It was a common sight to see large groups of boys and girls walking towards the nearby farms, located within walking distance of the village. Sometimes a farmer, needing help to gather his tobacco, pick his cotton or pull his fodder, would drive his truck to the village in search of helpers! I did all of the above! I picked cotton for as little as twenty cents per one hundred pounds; working in a tobacco field paid five to ten cents per hour. Pulling fodder, the hardest job of them all paid one cent per bundle! I liked going to the large tobacco warehouses that opened each year in August and listen to the auctioneers rattle off their bids for the yellow tobacco leaves.

The farm work was hard, and hot, being in the sun all day, but I thought it was also fun.

Memories of those times are priceless. I earned enough each summer to purchase my wardrobe for the next school year, also my textbooks! There were no free textbooks when I was a boy! Would I like to be a boy again and relive my summers again? You bet I would! Would you?
Would you like to be a boy again and do all the things you did when a boy?
Would you go back a little ways and enjoy the pleasures of childhood days?
Would you?
Would you trade your expensive shoes and your fancy store bought clothes,
For just one hour of going barefoot and squeezing mud between your toes?
Would you?
Would you trade your fancy rod and reel for a long cane fishing pole
And a can full of earthworms and a seat by your favorite fishing hole?
Would you?
Don’t say that you wouldn’t, be honest, say the truth.
Men are just grown-up boys!
And its pride that robs us of the things we once enjoyed.

Bill Shepard

Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” and has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address : 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.

Author: Rachel Howell

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