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“If the first week of August is unusually warm—the coming Winter will be snowy and long.”

“For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in Winter.”

“If cold August follows a hot July, it foretells a Winter hard and dry.”

From Weather Lore
The dog days of summer are dwindling down—that 40-day period of hot, sultry weather when the Dog Star, Sirius, reigns supreme in the nighttime sky. It is dreaded by housewives as it leaves mildew, mold and scum on every moist surface. It was once believed that it was a time when dog’s would go mad (rabid) and brought drought, disease and discomfort.

In ancient Egypt, the Nile River flooded each year, beginning in late June. They welcomed the floodwaters as it brought rich soil to grow their crops in land which was otherwise a desert. They noticed that the water began to rise on the days when Sirius began to rise before the sun. The floodwaters, called the “Inundation” is now controlled by the Aswan Dam.

Ancient folks believed the “combined heat” of the star Sirius and the sun brought the sweltering heat that characterizes this 40-day period. Actually, the Dog Star Sirius does not affect the weather, but just happens to coincide with this time of extreme heat. Old timers thought that rain during this time was a bad omen, hence this little poem:

“Dog Days, bright and clear,
Indicate a happy year;
But when accompanied by rain,
For better times, our hopes are vain.”

What I remember most, when I was a knobby-kneed kid growing up, was that water grew stagnant in the creek and we were forbidden to play in it. Mom told us it would make “fall sores” on our legs, but we invariably got them anyway. That is something that you never see nowadays. Is it because we never see the young generation paddling around in the creek?

Something else that is quite rare are stone bruises—that painful sore that appeared on the soles of our feet in the summertime. I’m sure it was from going barefoot all summer long, as today’s children always wears shoes. Daddy would use a razor blade to carefully remove each layer of skin until he reached the infection, or “core.” Then he would squeeze out the infection, and apply a poultice on the foot—usually a layer of sassafras leaves, or a cabbage leaf. The foot was then bound with white cloth, and a sock to keep the bandage intact.

What fun it was to catch the crawdads and tadpoles to make our own personal aquarium. Sometimes we would add minnows and lizards to the mix, and stock the deep cleft in the “Big Rock.” This would last until a summer rainstorm over flooded the cleft and set all of our marine life free. We would have to repeat the whole process over again.

A summer rainstorm was a blessing to us as youngsters. It seemed that our summer was filled with hard work, mostly hoeing corn in the big bottom. It had to be hoed three times before it was “laid by”—row after tedious row. The hot sun would bake our heads and the sweat bees would take their toll out of our hides. How we welcomed a rainy day!

It not only brought life-giving moisture to all the green and growing things, but refreshed the trees and polished the leaves to a glistening green. The Lord knows exactly when to send the rain. Our lawn was showing some brown and dry spots, and last night we received a glorious thunderstorm. Lightening flashed its jagged arrows overhead, and thunder boomed and rolled across the sky. I thought of how the Lord provides our needs.

In Job, it says, “(God) doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number. Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields.” (Job 5:9-10) We should never take the blessings of God for granted, but thank Him daily for His wondrous care for us.

This is a fruitful time of year. The gardens are giving forth their produce, the apples are beginning to ripen, and the earth is full of His goodness. One of the best things about this time of year were the green apples. Like all country kids, we were cautioned about eating green apples “because they will give you the bellyache. I don’t ever remember having a bellyache from eating green apples, and I ate my share. We had two apple trees up in the end of the bottom, and when the corn was knee high or so, Mom couldn’t see us from the house. With a salt shaker hidden in our pocket, brother Larry and I would make a beeline for the earliest apple tree which also had a low limb that was handy to climb.

There we would sit and pluck and eat green apples to our heart’s content. One day I climbed up first, and Larry was having a little trouble reaching the first limb. He picked up a rotten log that was under the tree, and braced it on the tree trunk. Unknown to either of us, there was a yellow jacket nest in the log, and they were furious at being disturbed. Larry discovered them before he climbed the tree, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him. However, I was already up the tree, and trapped.

It was too far to jump, and I couldn’t climb back down the tree because the yellow jacket nest was propped up against it. I got stung so many times that I finally chanced a broken leg and jumped anyway. Oh, I paid for those green apples! My legs and feet swelled so bad that it was days before I could walk normally. Naturally, Mom knew why we were in the apple tree, but she didn’t say too much. I guess she figured that we had been punished amply. Larry was stung all over, too. Be sure your sins will find you out!

Oh, the sports of childhood, roaming through the wildwood
Running o’er the meadow, happy and free,
But my heart’s a’beating, thinking of the greeting,
Swinging ‘neath the old apple tree.
Larry and I weren’t exactly swinging, but we executed some pretty fancy dance steps there ‘neath the old apple tree!

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer