By Rick Houser –
As a young boy I always heard the older folks talk about it. As I aged, I heard of it again but just wasn’t listening closely or just plain not understanding. But these days I’m very certain that what I’ve heard and was very true. There are five seasons in each year. We have all heard of fall and winter followed by spring and summer, but just as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, there is one more season. That my friends is The “Dog Days” of summer.
The Dog Days are a season we all experience every year. I looked it up in Webster’s’ Dictionary and it says the following. “Dogs Days”: The sultry part of summer that is supposed to occur during the period that Sirrus, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: This is from July 3 to August 11 or even into September. There it is listed in the dictionary and very official for all of us to see.
How can we tell when the dog days are here? To study this I think we need to look back to earlier in the year, back to early spring, when the earth is beginning to thaw out from a long, cold winter. The world begins to come to life as the grass grows greener and the trees begin to bud. Early flowers start their ascent to full bloom in the late spring. Late spring is also when the farmers plant their crops. All of us ,along with the plants and livestock, gather speed trying to take in all that Mother Nature has to offer and is offering all at once.
When late spring exits and early summer enters, the fields come alive with new crops growing and growing fast. When the gardens get their final sowing and plantings, they grow each day with ever more increased optimism. By the Fourth of July most of the flowers have bloomed and have made room for the later varieties and the corn and soy beans are near or above the halfway points of full maturity. With all this, the prime choice hay has been baled and the wheat crops and the straw have been placed in the barn also.
This is what happens leading up to the Dog Days. There is a flurry of activity that passes us by so quickly that we that we don’t see when the world begins to slow down. It comes on so subtle that it is hardly noticeable, but there are definite signs, signs we see or notice but just don’t give them much thought.
A major sign is that the thermometer registers more high numbers than any other time in a year. The world moves into a lull that affects everything and anything that lives. One rule I always heard was to never go swimming during the Dog Days. Even though I never really understood why it was a rule, I easily followed it because I never learned how to swim.
However, if a person looks at the ponds and watering holes used by country kids, they have become stagnant with algae and become green in cast. That is in no way inviting to me. The pastures have come to a head and lost their seed and now the grass that was so dark green in May is now brown, or the farmer has used the bush hog and removed it. This is important because it allows new growth to begin that gives new grasses to the livestock.
In the evening on a very warm night the yards can be full of fire flies, unlike any other time in a year. On days when you can’t help sweating a person more than likely will be bothered by big old horse flies. There are really so many signs we are in the Dog Days that I doubt I can name them all, but one thing is for sure. All of us can see and feel the entire earth slow down to a slower, less urgent pace.
One thing I really liked as a boy to do was explore deep into the woods because it either was cooler or my mind convinced me into feeling cooler. Then came the one thing I really didn’t like and that was Mom ordering back to school clothes from the Sears Roebuck Catalog. They would arrive and Mom would make us try them on and then put them on hangers for me to look at until that first day of school, such cruel torture. So as the signs arrived in July and we observed and dealt with them into September, the Dog Days arrived left at usually the exact same time every year. We lived through them and I dare say we enjoyed them way more than the name of the season suggests. Only as I got older did I realize that they were real and I’m gonna guess that in my younger years I was too busy having fun and playing to fret about what season the calendar was on.
You can see now that there really are five seasons on our calendar and I guess there always will be. To be honest I can handle horse flies and green water, but I didn’t like that catalog one bit.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.