Southern Summer

You can feel the change in the air. The cool crisp mornings of spring turn into that sweltering, choking, stickiness of humidity called summer in the South. It seems to happen overnight – one day it’s comfortable, the next it’s stifling. The morning temps call for lows in the upper 70′s with highs in the upper 90′s. Oh, the joy of summer in the South.

The heat is the least of your concerns as you brace yourself for the next several months. After all, the seasons in Georgia are thus: Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Christmas. There are a couple of weeks where you have a chance of cool relief, and in rare instances, it’s downright cold. Other than that, it’s mildly warm to miserably hot. No, the big concerns during these hottest months (June – August) are the bugs. Miserable multiplying magnets of malaria – the dreaded mosquito, also unofficially known as Georgia’s state bird, begin hovering near the points of entry to every business and dwelling. It isn’t the ones that you can hear coming, oh no, it’s the little bitty Messerschmitt BF109′s of the insect world. You can’t see them coming; you can’t hear their approach; no, you only feel the sharp sting as they sink their stinger into your flesh. They are impossible to see after dusk as their coloration is dark as pitch and durn near impossible to kill before they attack. These little buggers are the misery of summertime enjoyment.

Let’s not forget the biggest pest of all, though it causes no harm, no itch, no rash, and that is the g-nat. Of course, you do have the occasional g-nat biters of the world, but those are not the ones of which I speak. I wonder how in the world Adam came up with the word “g-nat.” It was he, was it not, who named all the creatures? So why g-nat and why is the “g” silent? Those of you who have ever ventured to South Georgia are quite familiar with how to keep the g-nat away from your face. Those who have never ventured South often wonder why people down here tend to curl up one side of their mouth and blow out of the corner of their mouth. This is how you remove the g-nat problem from your immediate proximity – and to keep from accidentally swallowing one. Should you swallow one, do not fret – it goes down quick, you can hardly taste it, and as the Good Book says, “This too shall pass.”

I love to watch neighbors new to the South freak out at the OHMYGOSHHAVEYOUEVERSEENSUCHALARGEROACHABEFORE bug. This is their introduction to the Palmetto bug. I admit they are gross to run across, especially when they’re on their back and their little feet are just a-running as they try to flip over to no avail. It is especially gross when the house pet, usually a dog because cats prefer playing with them, picks them up and “CRUNCH!” proceed to eat them. However, if you want to really have fun at night out on your patio or porch, turn off all the lights, douse all the flames, and wait about ten minutes. Then suddenly turn the lights back on and watch these oversized roach-like critters scatter for cover.

Then, of course, are the meanest, nastiest, and freakiest creations known to man – the arachnids. Down here in Georgia we have some real beauties, too. Hanging near your gardens or shrubbery you have your garden spider. Its bright coloration does nothing for the creepiness of this one simply because this thing is HUGE. Though it’s really harmless to us it can keep anyone with any remotely present phobia of arachnids inside until winter. No, the ones you have to really watch for are the Black Widow (avoid all dark, dank corners), the Brown Recluse and the Wolf spiders. While the Widow tends to leave us alone unless threatened, the other two are predators actively seeking out prey. All you need do is experience one time the bite of a Recluse and you will forever have a huge respect for this little critter. The one redeeming fact about the Wolf is it likes to chomp on the other two. Still, it is not one I’d like to run into in a dark alley downtown at midnight on a starless, moonless evening.

Despite all these wonderful bugs I’ve talked about, none is more entertaining, more memory-inspiring than the lightning bug. Who has not ventured out into their yard when the sun has begun to sink behind the pines with their mason jars in hand chasing these wonderful flashlights of nature? Oh, the sweet smell of summer at dusk, when your bare feet thunder across the grass as dew begins to form and you desperately try to catch a lightning bug. If my neighbors are not out and no one is looking form their window, I’ll be out there with my glass jar a-hunting these little bugs. The warm memories of childhood flood the forefront of your brain, shoving back all the worries and stress of adulthood. While spring is not marked until you see the first robin, so summer does not begin until the first lightning bug turns on then off his butt and illuminates, even if just briefly, the space he (or she) occupies before repeating the action in another location. Yep, soon as you see this you know the carefree days of summer are at hand and you feel the rush you once felt when a child and school was out for the next three months.

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