Adventures and Misadventures of Summers Long Past

By Joe Darby

Well, if you’ve stepped outside in the past few days you know that we are once again beginning a Louisiana summer. You know, the terrific discomfort that they say is caused, not by the heat, but by the humidity.

Heck, I think it’s both the heat and the humidity. Mary loves this time of year because she hates the cold. I don’t like it. I’d much prefer a nice crisp day with a high temp of about 50 to what we are about to experience, highs in the 90s, 80 percent humidity and 100 percent chance of sweating.

Anyway, the advent of yet another summer has cast my mind back to incidents from a few summers of many years ago, short tales that could be collectively called something like, “How a Boy Should Not Spend His Summer.”

First, there was the time, when I was a small, wee lad. I was playing outside with Benny, the neighbor boy. The sun was blazing, the sweat was pouring off of us, and Benny was shirtless. I thought he looked pretty sorry, with his sweat soaked back, so for some reason that is totally inexplicable to me now, I thought I needed to go inside, get the can of Flit (for you young ones, that was bug poison sprayed from a can) and coat Benny’s ugly, sweaty back with it.

So I did. I succeeded in sneaking up behind him and letting him have it with several pumps of the Flit gun, which years before aerosol cans, was operated by a handle pumping a rod through a long tube. I coated his back pretty good before he turned and started to chase me. He was bigger and more muscular than me, but I was faster. However, as would be expected, he told his mother, who yelled at me, then she told Momma, who, very embarrassed, yelled at me too.

I don’t remember what my punishment was but I learned a lesson. Never treat a buddy like a bug.

Then there was the time that I was taking piano lessons from a nun at St. Anthony School in Baton Rouge. It was summer, for gosh sake, a time for a fifth or sixth grade boy to be playing baseball, riding bikes or staring at (but not being brave enough to talk to) pretty girls. It was not a time for practicing the piano.

Well, my lessons were on Saturdays and I dutifully went to the convent at the appointed time on this particular Saturday. It took no time for the good Sister to see that I was totally unprepared to play my pieces for her. I mean, I just hadn’t hardly practiced at all.

So she ordered me to say in the convent music room and practice until I had it right. I quickly realized that before I got it right, Saturday and probably most of Sunday would be gone. And so would I, as my plan unfolded. It being summer, and the convent having no air conditioning, the windows were open. Thank goodness the music room was on the first floor. So I did what any red blooded American boy would do and escaped out the window, dropped the four or five feet to the ground, mounted my trusty bike and pedaled away.

Sister came back to find an empty music room. Momma, after I told her how mean Sister had been to me, backed me up and let me quick taking piano. Otherwise, I’d still be in that music room. I did my best to avoid the music teacher when school resumed in the fall.

I also remember a scary summer incident when I was real little. I liked to play outside with my little soldiers and trucks and cars in the dirt. One day I was thus engaged, sitting cross legged on the ground, when I felt a sting between my legs. A horrible looking orange and black creature, a black widow spider in fact, then crawled out of my short pants.

She had bitten me in a very intimate place. My next memories were of being confined to bed and the doc making a house call to check on me. He tut-tutted and tsk-tsked, while Momma stood by and wrung her hands in worry. My little abdomen was hard as a board and I felt terrible. But, obviously, I recovered, and without any permanent ill effects. But even today if I walk into a spider web, chances are I’ll panic, jumping around and brushing myself like a mad man.

So, you see, it’s not just the hot, energy-draining temperatures that I don’t like about summer. Bad things can happen to a boy in the summer. Imagine a nightmare in which I’m being chased by Benny, to the accompaniment of piano music played by an angry nun, as black widow spiders fall from my pants. No wonder I like the winter.

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