You know, it’s funny. I don’t recall as a kid how we got through these hot, summer days. I don’t recall it ever being hot really. We just didn’t think about it. I don’t recall the misery of the heat, just the pleasure of being cool.
We had horses when we lived in Mississippi so, often during the summer, several of us would ride a few miles to the Tombigbee River for a pleasant day of swimming and cooling off. It was a long enough ride to race each other for a distance. I knew when my horse was unhappy to be running on such a hot day because he’d try to brush me off on a tree. He’d cut so close that my thigh would take off some bark. Fortunately I didn’t ride in shorts or I’d have scars. But when he started doing that, I knew he was annoyed and it was time to end the race. Amazing how smart some horses are and the smart ones are the toughest. Mine was very smart and very tough.
My horse would do anything for an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. There was a little store near the stables run by a friendly old man who opened and closed whenever he felt like it. Inside the screen door that would slap like a fly swatter when you entered or left, was a drink cooler that kept the contents at just above freezing. My horse knew when I went inside that he’d be getting a treat soon. He’d snort and stamp the ground in anticipation. For myself, I’d get a Nehi Grape Soda but he wanted his RC Cola. To get his treat, he’d have to “shake hands”. That long front leg would extend and fall heavily into mine. Then he’d have to count. He’d stomp his hoof on the ground until I ceased demanding. If he wasn’t wearing a saddle, I could get him to lay down on the ground and roll over. (I told you he’d do anything!) I barely had time to tear the wrapper from the Moon Pie before he’d grab it from my hand and devour it in less than a bite. Then, I’d pour the Cola into the side of his mouth and he’d lap it up with his tongue. Very little would hit the ground.
About half way to the river from the stables, there was a field of watermelons. By mid-summer they were fully ripe and ready. We’d “thump” a few to make sure. The story was you could thump a melon with your middle finger and by the sound, you could tell if it was ripe. The thump would make a hollow sound if it was ripe. Actually, I had no clue if the “thump method” was an accurate measure but I never got one that wasn’t ripe so I guess it was correct. Or perhaps it was because it was the picking season for watermelons. Who knows?
We’d grab three or more melons depending on how many were in the group. One or two were for the horses. We didn’t race any further because we had to balance the melons on our laps for the rest of the trip. When we got to the river, we put ours in the water to cool. They were still hot from lying in the sun baked field. A couple hours or so in the water was enough to cool them down.
The horses loved watermelon! While we took their saddles off, they’d stomp on it to break it open and slurp the contents in a matter of a couple minutes. The sugary, sweet water was a real treat for them and good payback for the long, hot ride.
For the next couple hours, we’d swim with the horses and play in the river. Man and animal alike enjoyed the cool water. While the horses dried off and dined on grass along the riverbank, we’d swing from a rope and try to make the biggest splash in the water or the craziest dive. Finally, when the watermelons were cool enough, we’d break them open and devour the contents. We didn’t have to carry water, the melons satisfied our thirst as well and our sweet-tooth.
The ride back to the stable was usually a leisurely one. We weren’t in any hurry. It was quiet on the return trip compared to the noisy ride to the river. We were tired and lulled to drowsiness by the squeaking leather of the saddle as the horses followed their internal compass towards home. One thing a tired and hungry horse knows is the way back to the feedbag. We’d bask in the late afternoon setting sun and get back in time to put the horses away and get to dinner.
So I guess that’s why I don’t recall the heat of summer as a youngster. It was incidental in the busy life of a kid. It was just a fact of life that went up and down with the sun of a long, summer day.
BTW… we’d leave money in the farmer’s mailbox for the watermelons. Back then a couple dollars was more than enough for three or four. Yesterday, I saw them at the grocery store for five bucks each. Things change. Today I feel the heat that I was immune to as a kid.
© 2012 DevonTexas