Summer Nights

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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It’s 1959, and we’re in Southern Arkansas. There’s no electricity in our house, so there’s no air conditioning, not even a fan. The only fans we may have are those flimsy paper ones we got from church (although that’s highly unlikely) or the ones we made from pasteboard. That’s highly likely. Actually, cardboard makes good fans, especially if that’s all you’ve got. 

While we desperately tried to find ways to stay cool, still it& doesn’t do our southern nights justice just to talk about cardboard fans, so let me share with you what else I remember. First of all, our large house had three doors and perhaps eight or ten windows. On those long, hot, humid, sweaty nights, it was safe to leave all the doors and windows wide open — as wide open as they could go. Not today, but I’m talking about over a half century ago. 

The nights were, for the most part, serene and peaceful. You may hear an occasional cricket chirp, a bull frog croak or a dog bark, but other than that the nights were relatively quiet, albeit restless. It’s difficult to sleep when it’s too hot, so it was permissible for everyone to sleep in their bare minimum — as long as we didn’t wear bikinis to bed. Other than that, it was fair game.

Whenever it rained, a cool breeze might blow through the house, but by the next night, chances are the humidity from the day would make it miserably hot again. The previous night’s breeze would have blown all the way to Florida or somewhere, and we would be suffering from the oppressive heat all over again. 

Since summer days are awfully long, not to mention hot, many rural families sat on their porches way into the night. Actually, twilight in the country is a very pleasant and romantic time, especially after the sun has long set. In Southern Arkansas, unlike in Southern California, the hot summer nights don’t instantly cool down as soon as the sun drops off the horizon to go to his bed. Our nights cool down just a “tad” bit, but for the most part, they’re still real sultry summer nights.

During the last part of summer, we looked forward to seeing our favorite little evening time insects — fireflies, aka lightning bugs. Summer just wouldn’t be summer if those little dancing bugs (with lights in their tails) don’t show up. We kids could hardly wait until it was dark enough to see ’em. As they flashed and dashed across the landscape, we chased them across the yard and into the fields, trying to catch as many as we could. However many we caught, we put them in jars with holes in the top. Those flies were our twinkling stars in jars and a part of our childhood summer evening entertainment.

After sitting on the porch for what seems like eternity, finally, we had to bid the darkness good night and get ready for bed. When we finally fell into bed, we’d have our little sing-alongs then say our last good nights before drifting off to sleep … anything to make the long, hot night shorter. Sometimes, those flings helped. Sometimes they didn’t, but even still, they added a bit of excitement to our long, hot summer nights.

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