« How Big is Your World? | Main | Landscapes »

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Last Prose of Summer

By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times


I waited on my bike at the intersection where we had agreed to meet and ride on together. Two twelve-year-olds just beginning what would be a lifelong friendship, we chose a place mid-way between her country home and my small-town one.

On that hottest of summer days, even though I arrived parched and hot, I assumed I would cool off under the big shade tree where I waited for Barb. This was in the days long before the ubiquitous water-bottle and I’m sure I was seriously dehydrated.

Suddenly I began to feel awful: weak, dizzy, clammy with cold sweats, chills and nausea. By the time Barb’s parents had rescued me and put me to bed in their house, it was apparent that I had a rip-roaring case of heat exhaustion from which I recovered slowly over a span of two years.

It even kept me from joining all the other area kids in what was a major source of our summer income: detasseling hybrid seed corn. The first time I tried working on a field crew out in the hot sun, all those heat exhaustion symptoms returned, and I had to postpone my detasseling debut till the following summer.

I made it through that next season just fine, although it didn’t provide me with the fame it did Cindy Crawford (the most famous and highest-paid 1990's model who had been discovered while detasseling corn in an Illinois cornfield, and whose name is synonymous with the word “detasseling” in Google searches!).

I was born and raised in Southern Illinois where summer daytime temperatures were consistently in the eighties and nineties with hot nights and breaks in the heat only when it rained. How my sister and I loved those cooling showers. We would slosh around barefoot in the rain-soaked grass, jumping to make it splash us all over.

People sometimes laugh when I say southern Illinois, thinking I am joking until I point out that the lower part of the state is on a level with Kentucky and Tennessee and is, indeed, a very southern culture – accents and idioms included.

We later moved to central Illinois, to a two-storied farmhouse surrounded by majestic shade trees. The summer temperature readings were more moderate there than in southern Illinois. The downstairs of the farmhouse stayed cooler, with linoleum floors that felt cool to lie on during the hottest days. I did some of my reading there, and some outside under the big maple trees, trying to catch a stray breeze.

The upstairs had two bedrooms and a storeroom. In the winter, the big front bedroom, with windows on all three sides, was closed off so that our “warm morning” coal stove, huffing away in the downstairs dining and family room, could heat the warmer bedroom at the top of the stairs enough to sleep in.

The same windows that let in the winter’s cold served a good purpose in the summer, providing cross-ventilation. Even so, many’s the night I pulled the bed close to the window so I could put my pillow on the window sill to get more air. (I’ll never forget my first summer after moving to New York and the joy of discovering a climate where the nights often cooled off twenty degrees or more. I had never experienced that in Illinois or Mississippi and I was in rapture.)

As a young girl and as a young woman, I had an inability to sweat normally. It caused me discomfort, and led to the heat exhaustion that began this tale. In recent years, my sister has felt impelled to apologize to me for not understanding the impact of that condition, along with my myopia, on my participation in sports.(Or I should say “non-participation.”)

It’s true that when you can’t see beyond the end of your arm it’s hard to see the ball and, when you can’t cool off by sweating, you tend to choose quiet, sedentary activities like reading and making music. Those interests have served me well through the years. And besides, how many seventy-six-year-olds can still play baseball? But I can still read and write books, and make music.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


A nicely told story. You are so right; not many could still play sports!

Delightful, and the image is wonderful. Thank you.

I so love reading your memories. Beautiful photo.

I am like you in that I was never good at sports due to myopia. Mine was complicated by a different physical problem than yours, but I share your activities then and now; reading and making music. They do last a life time.

Love your reminiscences about your early life; it stimulates mine; although different, just as nostalgic.Reading yours, I felt all of the heat and discomfort that yu must have felt then.

Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments. I appreciate your taking the time to read my posts and comment.

The comments to this entry are closed.