Some smells are distinctly of summer. The unmistakable aroma of freshly cut green hay is sweet to my nose. The scent of rising steam from rain on a hot asphalt road or a hot sandy street is unmistakable.
My favorite is the sweetness of gardenia. The more the better. My personal soft spot for the fragrance of gardenia is because my mother raised them and placed the first one into a small jelly glass near my bed. I try to claim the very first gardenia bloom to lighten the air in the room where I sleep.
Running and playing in rain puddles was fun but my mother dampened my joy with admonitions of “catching ground itch” from it. I don't know what “ground itch” is but I still don't go out bare footed after a rain.
My maternal grandmother's rain barrel stood in the corner formed by the fireplace chimney. Water from wooden barrel was a quicker source for a large supply on wash day than raising it from the well bucket by bucket.
During summer visits my mother and her sisters often retired to chairs on the front porch and washed their hair after a rain. My daughter, Joanna, and later “Little Miss Phillips” washed their hair in the rain as kids. Females like the texture of hair washed and rinsed in soft rain water.
While collecting thoughts for this note to you I recalled a scene that bewildered me. Often after a summer rain the ground was covered by jumping, leaping little toads. Frogs, hundreds of them. I never figured out where they came from but my grandfather, with his Irish wit, said the rain brought them. It rained frogs? I haven't seen them recently.
Summer brings more than gentle showers. When the state of Kansas was fresh to me I sat on the front porch of my in-laws’ farm and watched behemoth thunderstorms march in line across the horizon many miles away. There was the element of safe-danger; the ability to see it without being affected by it.
We were recently having supper when a bolt of lightening split an ancient elm tree near the north wall of our house in Washington, Kansas. The Kansas Woman saw a “ball of fire” and shot straight out of her chair. She was 'wired up” and twitchy for the next two days by that inspiring moment. It was her first encounter with “ball lightening” in the house. The phenomenon is a common house-guest in the South and dissipates on its own.
I worked at a radio station where, during a pending storm, a ball of the electric plasma formed and rolled around the building. It rolled around in the transmitter room, round and round the old gray Gates transmitter that served WBBT for decades and still “stands by.” It eventually left when the back door was opened. Ball lightening won't hurt ya' but it might make ya' hurt yourself.
There are other memories of summer rains: The sound of it on a tin roof; Running hand-in hand with a girl through a tobacco patch. I've never lost my fascination and wonder for a summer rain.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.