It appears that summer is finally here. At least the temperature tells us so. The calendar shows us that the season officially starts today.
Those lazy, hazy, days of summer bring back a lot of memories for me. Growing up in the small rural town in Mingo County, we were always excited for the last day of school. Then it was three months of sleeping late and enjoying the many things that June, July and August brought.
First there was fishing. Some of my fondest memories are fishing the Tug River with my dad. Using just a cane pole, fishing line and some hooks, and worms as our bait, we spent many summer evenings on the riverbank trying to catch catfish.
Our shoes disappeared in the summer, and going barefooted was the norm. The only time we wore shoes was when we played ball, went to town (Williamson) or went to church. And if I would have had my choice, I wouldn’t have worn them then.
As I got older, with a real rod and reel, I spent more time fishing with some of my friends.
Then there were those days we went swimming. The nearest public pool was in Williamson, which was eight miles away. So we hit the river. My mom didn’t like me to go swimming in the river, because a couple of people had drowned there. I thought she was over-protective, but now that I have raised my own kids and have three granddaughters, I realize she was just being a parent. We all worry about our children and that is something that never stops, even as they get older.
Another thing that I think of when it comes to summers past is baseball. I grew up loving baseball. My dad was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan, thus I became one too. I started developing a love for the game and the Reds prior to the start of the Big Red Machine era.
To this day I am a Reds fan and I try to make at least one trip to the Queen City at least once a year to catch a Cincinnati game. I was able to do this when I was younger, and it is one of the things I have tried to do routinely with my son. Thus, handing down a love for the game and the Reds.
Of course, growing up in a small town, we loved to play baseball. At the grade school I attended, the playground was not that big, so we had to play softball. We had some pretty good teams and won several championships for our little hamlet during one stretch.
Talk about great memories! We would go play other towns and the coaches would pile the players into the back of a pickup truck and maybe a car or two, and off we went. Those road trips were always fun. It was especially a good time for those whose parents did not have a car, and were not able to make many trips out of our little community.
If we were victorious, and most of the time we were, we would go to a local restaurant on the way back home and we all got a cold bottle of pop. That was such a treat for us. Our celebrations rivaled those of the major league teams that use champagne for their merriment.
Riding our bicycles up and down the “backway” was another way we would “wile” away the hours. If you were lucky enough to have a bike, then we would all get together and race, ride and terrorize the neighborhood. We would take a baseball card and fix it in the spokes so it would sound like a motorcycle. You could do the same with a balloon, but sometimes those were hard to get and they didn’t last as long.
For some reason they would eventually pop from the friction of the spokes. Go figure.
The rare times it rained during those hot, humid months, we had to stay inside. We only got three channels on our black and white TV. (And now I complain when there is nothing to watch on my cable, with over 100 channels to choose from.)
Once in a while one of the local channels would carry a Reds game, and that was always a pleasure.
Most of the time I had to find out how the Reds were doing on my old radio. It barely picked up the local station that was a Cincinnati affiliate. But if you held your hand on the radio a certain way, the signal came in just fine. Many times my dad and I sat and listened to Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and the others, hoping for another win.
We didn’t have air conditioning, so our old wood-frame house with its high ceiling was hot. We had portable screens in the windows, with a window fan, blowing outward in an effort to create some kind of breeze through the bedroom windows.
I can remember lying in bed, looking up at the stars, many times falling asleep while tuned into the Reds game.
I would lie on the end of the bed in front of the window, hoping to catch some kind of relief from the scorching summer weather.
But hey, we made it.
If you think about it – we have become a spoiled society. With central-heat and air conditioning, satellite or cable stations with all the channels you want, and many other comforts.
I have my Reds games coming in on the cable (thank you SuddenLink) and cool air blowing from the vents. It’s enjoyable to watch the Reds games, lying there with my remote in hand and a cold beverage by my side.
But what I wouldn’t give for one trip back in time. To sit with my late father in front of that window screen, hand on the old radio trying to improve the signal and listening to the old lefthander Joe Nuxhall on the Star of the Game Show. As he finished up the broadcast, “This is the old lefthander rounding third and heading for home,” he would say.
Or what I wouldn’t pay for one more fishing trip over to the nearby river with my dad or some of my old friends.
I would love just one more at bat on the old playground, smacking another hit and helping the Nolan Hornets to another victory.
Those were the days my friend – we thought they would never end. Hey, isn’t that lyrics to a song …. If not, they should be.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)