Southern style: anybody got a fan?

tsj column writers - southern styleBy Randall Franks

The heat of the day this time of year sometimes brings me into the summer doldrums. I know there is so much that needs to be done outside, but I step outside and after a few minutes in the oven I begin to think, “Oh, that will wait.”

What happened to that little boy who could not wait to get out into the summer sun to run and play? I know he is still buried deep inside me somewhere.

I know that he wants to get out there and run and play. It’s just that adult running and playing is often done largely with a lawnmower, weed eater, hedge trimmer or saw tightly grasped in hand.

In my defense, those activities did not thrill me as a youth either so at least I have not changed that much. However, I do miss that desire to get out and use every drop of light that can be found and squeezed to steal just a few more minutes from the day before retiring into the house to rest.

I remember leaving home after breakfast which was served when my father and mother were nearing departure for work in the early morning. I’d play all day and be in by lunchtime to have a bite to eat and then out again, only to return to be sitting at the dinner table. Once I was old enough, my folks let me go back out to play some more after supper until the streetlights came on. The only deviation from that is if the neighborhood parents were all out enjoying the evening on the porch or in the yard, then the kids might get a game of ball going on the street beneath the lights as the parents cheered their little darlings on.

Eventually the remainder of the day outside would have to be returned to the night air as we stepped inside our homes, windows open, curtains and sheers blowing inward as fans sucked in the evening air to cool the house before sleep.

I remember days so hot you couldn’t sleep; you know those days when folks said you could fry an egg on the sidewalk? I would get up just to go to the kitchen, open the freezer just to breath a few cool breaths. It wasn’t long before mother would be in the kitchen to remind me I was wasting electricity and letting the food spoil.

Eventually my folks saved up enough to move into the age of air conditioning. I can’t recall what it cost but they had to run a new breaker and plug to put the big window unit in the dining room.  It worked so well it felt like hog killin’ time in three rooms of the house in no time. The rest was still hot except for us sitting fans around to move a bit of the cool air down the hallway.

The increase in power bills soon had us rationing. We could only use the air when we had guests or if it was a holiday, which was fair. We wouldn’t want those visitors to sweat like we did on days they were not there. Holidays were days we were all home most of the day and folks generally showed up on those as well.

This plan worked pretty good until we saw an increase in visitors and mother realized I was stacking the deck a bit. Therefore, guests under a certain age were eliminated from the air conditioning formula.

As I think back on it, it just reinforces my original question. I did perfectly well for several years of my life in the heat. All I can figure is that years of air-conditioned living have spoiled me.

Given the choice though, would I rather have better heat stamina and no air conditioning or plenty of air and no desire to spend my day outside? I guess my answer would be neither. I would go back to what I had as a kid if I could enjoy a little of both. I am planning on starting tomorrow; that is, if I can get this metal rotary fan I pulled out of the attic to work. I think the last time I opened a window was 2003. Where is that hammer? I may need to some help to coax them.

Friends, as temperatures rise, be sure to check in on your elderly neighbors to make sure they are staying cool. If their home is warm, it might be to keep their bills affordable. You might politely invite them over to your house or to go shopping to get them somewhere cooler in the heat of the day. Be sure to enjoy every minute of sunshine you can, but don’t overdo it and drink plenty of water!

(Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers II : Walking with the Masters.” He is a syndicated columnist for http://randallfranks.com/ and can be reached at rfrankscatoosa@gmail.com.)

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