Robert Hitt Neill column 7-31-12

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August was not for school classrooms

Betsy and I were informed recently that the Grandboys will be going to school starting the first full week in August.

I served my decade on a school board, but it’s been a while ago. My own kids have been out of high schools for over 20 years.

During my years on the board, I fought, bled, and died when we built and remodeled classrooms, warning my colleagues that if we installed air conditioning, then later administrators and boards would feel obligated to use that just because we had spent the money on it, therefore they’d start opening school way too early, in the summer instead of the fall.

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You know the Biblical saying: “The prophet is without honor in his own town.”  Sure enough, my words have come to pass.  Selah.

I realize that nowadays kids spend more time indoors than outdoors, especially when the temperature rises into triple digits, unless there is a Swimming Hole available.  

Trouble is, many municipal pools start closing when school starts, because what kid wouldn’t druther spend a 100-degree day in the cool water than even an air-conditioned classroom, if he had his druthers?

Used to be, in the Old Days (before you say it yourownself), school didn’t start until after Labor Day, at least in my memory. Of course, for us football players, August two-a-day practices mandated that we at least come to the gym, but it also meant that our summer job bosses would excuse us from work for a couple of hours a day, usually with pay (but don’t tell the NCAA!).

A dip in the spring-cool waters of the Mammy Grudge was almost mandatory before a boy went back on the job.

If one’s job was on the farm, the crops were mostly laid by in August, so sneaking a watermelon from Evangeline Golden’s patch to sink down in a cold spring, then skinny-dipping for an hour before eating the cold melons sitting on the bank nekkid was so enjoyable that it probably was a sin.  

Certainly it was to our Mommas, who probably prayed for us as we thought we were getting away with sneaking melons and skinny-dipping with the water moccasins.

August was NOT for school classrooms! Even when school began in early September and it was still warm, those huge high-off-the-floor oscillating fans provided a cooling breeze with such a soothing hum, that a kid could actually enjoy going back to school, even if the teacher was talking loud enough to almost drown out the relaxing hum of the fans.

Toward the last of the school year, when we began to have warm days again, the fans would reappear, their soothing hums depressing the hyperness of our arriving spring fever.

August was the month to try to get in the last of the I’m-gonna-do-this-during-summer-vacation promises, for both kids and adults. The crops had to be laid by before one went off to visit Aunt Virginia & Uncle Fitz for a week, or headed to the Coast for a week of deepsea fishing with Unca Tullier (“Too-Yay”) on his party boat, usually anchoring at night in the Chandelier Islands, where the grown-ups would send us youngsters to dredge up oysters or gig flounders or cast-net for shrimp, for supper.

That’s when we began preparing fields for the first weekend of September dove hunts, and sending out invitations for the Opening Day hunt and party, including arranging aerobatics. August was when we started checking down in the woods to see what trees were bearing nuts, scouting for the opening of squirrel season.

We tromped the ditchbanks and swamps for snakes to skin for belts and hatbands, the favorites being copperheads, since we had few rattlers in the Delta back then. We’d show off the belts when schools started.

August was NOT for school classrooms!

But times change, I know. At least we ain’t closing the Swimming Hole, so when the Grandboys get out of school in the afternoon in triple-digit heat and humidity, we’ll be prepared for them.