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Let's talk about the weather. That's a good, safe subject.

We've had some hot weather. How hot is it? June was an unaccustomed hot month. First, we had all that rain. Then all that heat. Not too conducive for good gardens.

When I was a child we, on our farm west of Gravette, didn't have air conditioning. But we didn't really need it. There were no sidewalks, paved roads, no heat draining cement to speak of. Our houses were fairly cool, no matter what the temperature. It was because of all those shade trees in our yard. Sun seldom hit the roof of our house and the lawn was always cool.

Pop took a nap every afternoon on the front screenedin porch. A cool breeze blew from the southeast. Then we kids would often go upstairs and I do remember it being hot up there. But again, with all the windows open, it wasn't too bad.

We did our work in the mornings. Milked cows almost before daylight; very little heat there. Hoeing, picking vegetables from the garden and canning happened in the cool of the morning. When we went berry picking, us kids fought over who got to pick blackberries that grew in the shade under the trees. They were the biggest berries too, so our buckets filled faster. After our buckets were full, we would wade spring-fed creeks in our bare feet. That's probably why we didn't have lots of ticks and chiggers. They got washed off. Sometimes Mom would pack a picnic lunch and we would eat by the cool spring. We loved our land. It was never hot in that forest.

But there were times when we had to work out in the hot sun. Like putting up hay. With pitchforks we put the loose hay on a wagon. Then we'd see who could find the highest spot to ride on the hay as Pop pulled the hay-filled wagon to the barn. It was fun shinnying up the rope to ride the hay pulley. Sometimes we'd jump from the second floor hayloftonto the hay piled on the wagon. Pop would go to the house after he'd hauled up the load and leave us to empty the trailer, so he had no idea of the fun we had. I don't think work was supposed to be fun but I have many fond memories of working our farm during summer times.

I didn't even mind mowing the yard with our reel (no power) mower. The grass was always green, though we didn't water it. Maybe it was from pouring out all that dish and bath water. Our house had no indoor plumbing.

On Saturdays we would go to Southwest City, Missouri. We kids rode in the back where the breeze would hit us. Going to town was quite an event, sometimes lasting all day. Our neighbors were there and our folks did a lot of visiting. Of course, none of the businesses had air conditioning. You don't miss what you never had, I guess. Papa often gave us kids a nickel to buy an ice cream cone. While Mom shopped at Queen's grocery store Pop headed for the bar. He could always find a cold drink there.

On day (very few) when it rained, we didn't have to work. My favorite rainy day pastime was to climb up into the hayloft and lay on the good-smelling grass and listen to the rain hit the tin roof. Sometimes I'd use those days to read or write letters to my best friend Sally. She and I decided to write a book during the summer and we'd mail each other a chapter with our letters. I thought she was a much better writer than me but even back then I was writing.

Now, we have to have our air conditioners in stores, homes and cars. It is too hot without them. We live with all that cement and most of the trees have been cut down. I guess that's why I like living in the country. We have a large lawn and lots of shade trees. But we still have air conditioning.

(Marie Putman, former Gravette resident, is a longtime freelance columnist for The Rogers Hometown News.)

Opinion, Pages 4 on 08/12/2009

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