Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer's Slide

Well, it's mid-July and I'm starting to get that summer's-flying-by-too-fast feeling that I get every year about this time. It's probably a little exacerbated this year because of the dreadful winter that wouldn't end, followed by a spring that I would call more winter-lite.

And because it's screaming by, I begin to stack up the things I haven't been able to do yet, and in some cases, probably won't be able to do at all this summer. Well, rather than dwell on what I might not get to do, I'd rather talk about what I used to love about summer when I was a kid.


  • Backyard carnivals. As kids we were always looking for an entrepreneurial endeavor to earn a little cash for candy. So usually once a summer we organized a backyard carnival and invited all the neighborhood kids to participate. We would lure them into our backyard and then proceed to gouge them just like real carni's at the state fair. What great friends we were. One of the things we did was turn our garage into a haunted house. We'd use spaghetti as "brains", a scarecrow as, well a scareycrow, and other dumb stuff. Then, if they won the prize for a game they chose to play, we'd give them a candy prize that was worth less than they game cost. Then after the winnings were divided equally (except for mom's share which was just figured into the "overhead" column, we'd head down to Swanson's supermarket or Bober's Drug Store and blow the wad on candy, gum and Duncan yo-yo's which were all the craze.
  • Walking to the store. Bobers and Swansons were where we spent our fortunes. We begged Mom mercilessly for her purse change so we could get candy from those stores. Or, better yet my sister Pat would send us there to buy her cigarettes with a plagiarized note from "our mom". When they called home to verify my sale, Pat picked up the phone and said "Oh yes, Jimmy's my son." For a fifty cent pack of cigarettes, we often got a quarter, so the sin tax for smokers was high even back then.
  • Tubing down the Apple River in Prescott, Wisconsin. Usually once a summer, my mom and stepfather would pile us into two cars and take us to the Apple River. We'd have a picnic lunch and then get tubes and ride the river for a couple hours. It was great fun. It was also the source of one of my near-death drowning experiences, but that's a different story.
  • Camping. Usually one trip a summer to a State Park somewhere in Northern Minnesota. A great time to swim and get to know our step-brothers and sisters better. Nighttime games of hearts and blackjack around the Coleman lantern were the best. Smores, and fire towers, and small town carnivals were all part of it. 
  • Carp fishing on the river. This might tip my true redneck hand a bit, but we used to ride our bikes down to the Mississippi with our fishing rods and cans of corn for bait. If the fish weren't biting, we'd wander around the sandstone bluffs looking for fossils and carving our names in the stone. If we came across a beer can that we didn't have in our collection, well, that was a bonus.
  • Pickup games of baseball. Games started over in the St. Lukes parking lot and grew or shrunk as kids came around or left. Usually we were four to a side or so, which closed center and right fields (automatic outs), among a dozen or so other rule modifications to accommodate the small teams. We'd play the cover right off of our league baseballs. As we got older, we switched to softball, as the home runs over the fence in left were liable to break windows. 
Summers were awesome. They were usually about 3 weeks too long, when we'd get bored and were out of new ideas that came readily in the early summer months. 

It makes me wonder what my kids will remember about their summers? They are much less mobile than we were, of that I'm sure. We covered a lot of ground. (A single parent family tends to make for a long leash, so to speak.) I'm sure they'll have something. Every kid does.

Blogging off...

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