It could just be me but when the calendar rolls into August and the dog days of summer are unmistakably upon us, I sense there is a second message in the air. I have always found August to be the month that a farmer relaxed a little before the housing of the tobacco season began and also it was the time to groom your farm so it finished the summer looking as neat as it could look.
Well used pastures were clipped so that all unsightly weeds were gone and only the true contour and the design of the land came through. Fence lines were cleared of unsightly weeds and grubs, along with the fences getting a final summer repair where they were pulled tight and the worn out spots replaced with new wire being mended in. My Dad called it busy work as it kept my brother and me along with Wilbur the hired hand not wanting for something to do. (As if we ever were.) It seemed a time to get all farm things in order. I never really knew why, but now I think I do. You see, as we were doing this the patches of tobacco were ripening to a bright yellow or almost a pumpkin color signaling that it was ready to be harvested. Again I don’t know if it was just me but when the dog days came around, things just felt different.
Just how different was a matter of opinion I guess, but it seemed we moved, or the things around us moved slower. Even though the days grew hot in the afternoons, the morning sun would rise with a cool tinge in the air and the ever-present dew covering the earth. As the day drew near a close, the temperature would dip just a little lower than it had all summer. On clear nights and mornings I felt I was seeing much further than what I was accustomed to. I know that when we were bringing a load of tobacco from the field to the barn, I would recline back into the load of tobacco and soak up the warm summer rays.
These days I’m noticing more than in my youth that even the animals have slowed their pace. I see cattle in the pastures as I drive along to work that are just taking their time and soaking it all in. Again I must admit that maybe it’s just me but there is a change happening over us and to us that is very subtle. Take a look at the cornstalks and the tops of soy beans and even thr tree leaves once in a while. Right before our very eyes it is happening. Those dog days are the camouflage used to hide that summer is coming to an end.
I never minded cool mornings or hot afternoons or even evenings that came to a close earlier. It is all so subtle that we almost don’t see it happening but it is happening in front of our very eyes. All seasons change and come to an end, but as much as I love summer and enjoy the hope that is synonymous with spring, I try hard to not accept fall. Fall, even though it is colorful and has lots to do, just pales in comparison to summer. Long warm nights and never ending daylight and when the darkness finally arrives it greets us with fireflies and so much more- that’s a special summer. Notice that winter doesn’t get much of a mention. If this were an election, summer would win by a landslide.
Let me return now to the dog days. Those days are a must and as we creep closer to weather that might call for warmer clothes there must be that that time when the transition takes place. When you are busy in a field cutting tobacco or in the kitchen canning desperately as much as you can so nothing grown is wasted, and who knows, it might be a hard winter and we will need every last jar canned.
The dog days of summer begin the slow changes that even we don’t realize, but we begin to become reluctant about the seasons moving. To me I would see the world a little differently at this time. There are always changes occurring and Mother Nature is always a marvel to observe. However, I still to this day wonder just why she has to move us through this part of the year.
As many negative reasons as there are for the dog days, there still comes one obstacle- Mother Nature. Yep, she says the earth won’t be complete without this very important time period happening. So it really doesn’t matter if I want it or not, it’s going to happen. So as the dog days arrive I will take in what they have to give and enjoy what they offer. It is a time of year I won’t ever forget. I recall the trimming of the pastures, the repair of fences, and the brilliant sunrises and sunsets, along with the continued summer climate. As much as I have always been ready for the harvest of a crop, waiting a little longer would still be okay by me.
To have experienced as many dog days as I have causes me to say to all of you, “Please look up and all around you. Don’t let it get by you without you getting to enjoy it.” Again I will say it just might be me but when we enter the dog days we are almost into autumn, so do all you can outside as long as you can. It won’t be long before the dog days have come and gone.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If your group would like for him to speak to them he might be available. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.