Southern Legitimacy Statement: Wayne Scheer, a Yankee by birth and a lover of thin crust pizza, has lived in the South long enough to crumble bacon into his grits and to think of Moon Pie as a food group.
Summertime Ain’t No Time to Sing About
My friend is so Southern, even in the hottest part of summer you’ll find something simmering on her stove, a pot of collards or pole beans, complete with slabs of fatback big enough to cause a cardiologist to run screaming into the night. She hails from rural South Carolina–she really says, “hails,” although it sounds more like, “hi-yulls”–from a town so small, she swears, “if you blink you not only miss the town but the whole danged county.”
Her accent makes molasses seem watery and once she has a drink or two, she tells stories about the Baptist ladies in the church she grew up in that would make a vaudeville comic blush.
But even she’s been finding summers here in Georgia oppressively hot. So hot “the devil moved on back to hell, just to cool off.”
She visited with my wife and me the other day. There’s nothing like iced tea and summer heat to get a Southerner talking about the old days. Beer helps, too. “Whenever I’d whine about how the heat was making me sweat, my mother would straighten her back, till I feared she’d break a vertebrae, wrinkle her forehead till she had one eyebrow, and pinch her lips so tight I wondered how she managed to squeeze the words out: ‘Horses sweat, dear. Young ladies glisten.'”
Knowing how to prolong a laugh, she waited.
“Well, Mama. This summer I’m sweatin’ like a damn horse.”
Without changing her facial expression, she seemed to move on to another topic. “Maybe Al Gore’s onto something. To tell you the truth, I used to think he was just on something.” She allowed us to sip our drinks before continuing.
“Now I don’t know about the globe warming, but it’s sure a lot hotter nowadays than it was once upon a time. Why it’s only June, and the thermometer outside my porch says it’s nearing one hundred. We expect that in August, but June? Hell’s bells. It’s like the in-laws showing up Saturday for Sunday dinner.”
You’d think she’d slow down, but she was only getting started.
“I can’t do a lick of work in the garden without feeling faint. The greens bolted so fast I hardly had me a salad. If I don’t pick the squash every day they get so big and tough the boys could use ’em for baseball bats. And the ‘maters? They’re exploding on the vine, like some damn terrorist loaded them with dynamite.”
She gave us time to catch our breath.
“I got me a new hobby. Skinnydipping. I haven’t done that since I was little and mama give me such a whupping I couldn’t sit down for weeks. Now I sneak down to the creek at the edge of my property, strip nekkid, and sit in the cold water till I turn blue.”
She passed on more tea and moved to cold beer.
“It ain’t natural, I tell ya. Something’s wrong. I might have me a heat stroke come August. Or worse. I may have to move North.”