This morning as I headed into work, I was listening to NPR of course. It was an usually early hour for me to be heading that direction, but I had a computer drive issue that I needed to check out. During that brief commute, I heard another favorite of mine this morning waxing on about the waning status of August as that do nothing month. While I did indeed enjoy Frank Deford’s description of August having historically marked the end of summer as it slipped into fall and a time of really nothing – I personally think it lends to his having led a sheltered life or at least an urban life.
Let me make sure, that no one gets the wrong idea on two different counts. First is the fact that I do really like Frank Deford’s commentary when I occasionally catch it. I think his often meandering, slightly funny and often sarcastic approaches to his coverage of all things sports and life in general is usually right on the mark, and as the occasional case when I disagree (as in this morning) I still appreciate his delivery style enough to listen to him all the same.
Second is that I have nothing against August. The month I dislike (and that is only because it equally or more dislikes me) is July. My August has been wonderful. When compared to July it has been even better than wonderful. It started with several days at Pennsic with lots of good friends and good times. Things are, despite some setbacks, getting accomplished at the office, and it is in general heading toward my favorite time of year – fall. That August leads from the last long warm days of summer to the quiet cooler days of September is the one thing upon which Deford and I agree.
In the piece this morning, Deford was of course focused on sports and largely seemed to imply that nothing is going on in August. He further asserts that it truly used to be the end of summer, the last days before school started and well prior to the beginning of football. A month when nothing was to be done but to just relax and do, well, nothing. I do agree that all those things are moving up the start dates at an alarming rate. School for instance was almost always after or right around labor day when I was a kid. Now it is beginning with days early in August for some students which seems nearly crazy. However, as Deford himself pointed out, the boys of summer are still playing. He failed in fact to mention, despite the long season prior to this point, the races for the pennants are just really starting to get exciting.
Beyond that, historically the reason so many schools started after labor day was the harvest. The harvest time on a farm, especially from mid August up through early September is one of the busiest times. It often falls that multiple row crops are coming in at the same time as hay operations and the occasional threat of rain and marching time of soon cooler overnight temperatures are driving forces. I know I did a good share of harvesting, especially working in tobacco here in Kentucky as a teen prior to the start of school. And truthfully I suspect (if any elders are to believed) that the harvests of past years was even harder, required more manual labor, and had to be done with much cruder equipment.
My modern life says has it a being a rush to get in those last rides after work prior to the days becoming to short and darkness coming on so quickly that is not practical to rush out to the barn. It also allows extra grooming and loving to be given to the four-legged friends. There are also those last evening walks that sometimes catch the blinks of the fireflies before they are gone for the season.
I will also say that the last week or two of August is actually some of my favorite fishing time. I love to fish the creeks of my youth, wading up the streams where it is practical to do so. The use of ultra light gear in such a situation makes for a very thrilling experience and the water is the perfect temperature to do it in just a pair of cotton work pants and old tennis shoes. I admit, I have not done that in a number of years , but I miss it. It is truly one of the better parts of the year.
So to Deford I say – live a little in August and I think you find there is plenty to do in this month. And the things to do are certainly more enjoyable in the last half of August as compared to the month that shall remain nameless that immediately precedes August.
** Frank Deford in the picture, used from the NPR website.