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Editorial: Summer time: Is the livin’ really easy?

Summer time, and the livin’ is easy.

At one point in my life, I may have believed that.

The heat and humidity this area gets every year makes living not-so easy.

Walking outside these days is like walking into a never-ending sauna. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s sticky. It’s miserable. It’s summer in the South.

When that song was written in the early 1930s, and even into my youth, things weren’t so easy. But the lyrics to the song made it seem so.

Heck, the fish were jumpin’, daddy’s rich and ma is good looking. Sounds idyllic, right”

But easy living? I don’t think so.

Nowadays, we’re more likely to complain about summer weather in the south.

Maybe it’s because we’re spoiled. Spoiled by air conditioning. Spoiled by ice coming out of every refrigerator. Spoiled by cars with comforts our fathers could only dream about. Spoiled by entertainment at our fingertips for every waking moment.

Looking back, I don’t remember complaints about the weather while growing up in rural Davie. Our house didn’t have the convenience of air conditioning (We only got indoor plumbing a few years before I came along.). We slept together, as there weren’t enough beds (or bedrooms) to go around. We had a refrigerator, and yes, a freezer was attached, but we had to make our own ice cubes. I still fantasize about those Kool Aid ice cubes we used to get as a treat.

But complain? I don’t think so.

Summers were spent outside. Usually barefoot. Usually without a shirt (For the boys, anyway.). Sweat was expected, not something to loathe. In the summer, my normally brown hair would almost turn blond it got so much sun. My pale skin darkened.

But complain? I don’t think so.

Our little neck of the woods had everything to keep a boy thinking that living really was easy in the summer in the South. We had a basketball goal. We had a bat and a ball. And we had nature.

There was a small grove of apple trees in our backyard. These weren’t the fancy, sweet apples we enjoy these days. These trees put out tiny, green apples – sour and tangy. Eating just one at the wrong time could put a tornado in your stomach. But dried and sweetened, and fried by my dad in a cast iron skillet, they made the best fried apple pies one could imagine.

We had a wooded area that included a small stream. We attempted many times, with various degrees of success, to dam up that stream to make a small swimming hole. It was really more of a wading hole. Getting the water deep enough to reach our waist was difficult.

We had trees with vines in those woods. Playing Tarzan was a favorite. Sure, vines occasionally broke. And we went home after a day outside with scrapes and bruises, and often, with bites from ticks and other insects, rashes from poison ivy and oak.

But complain? I don’t think so.

We slept with our windows open, hoping for a breeze. We could hear the insects and birds. If someone drove nearby, we could hear that, too. We woke to the same sounds.

But complain? I don’t think so.

The weather folks on TV these days talk about staying out of the sun. We worshipped the sun. They talk about staying hydrated. If we wanted a drink of water on a hot summer day, it came from outside, from a spigot located next to the well.

Maybe livin’ really was easy back in the day.

Maybe all of these creature comforts we think we have to have are making us soft. Yes, things change. It’s a different time, now.

But it’s worth looking back into how we and our ancestors lived – especially what we lived without. We need to spend more time appreciating what we have than dwelling on what we don’t have.

Get your head on straight, and “summer time and the livin’ is easy” is within reach. Even in the South.

– Mike Barnhardt