Hot Days and Cool Music

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton
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The hot days of August has hit the Shoals. Hot dry and humid. When I was school age, we didn’t start until after Labor Day as most schools didn’t have air conditioning. With the installation of AC, schools keep moving up opening day until it’s taking a month of summer now. Most schools started back the first week of August. Farmers finally had a dry spell so they could get wheat combined and soybeans planted in the stubble.

I was able to take a week’s vacation the end of July and spent 10 days photographing the W.C. Handy Music Festival, much to the displeasure of my mother. Afterwards she was telling everyone who would listen to her that she was a W.C. Handy orphan.

The first weekend started out rainy, canceling some of the outdoor concerts, but the weather cleared up nicely. I carried my lawn chair and photographed some and sat some and listened to some great music.The Muscle Shoals area musicians so love their music, they’ll make an instrument out of anything including a sink and a cigar box. Several libraries in the Shoals even had classes for making instruments out of recycled material for the kids, and they got to accompany Microwave Dave.

My friends and I helped the local economy at lunch and dinner at several of the restaurants around the Shoals that had live music. One night we needed a break from the music and hit one restaurant that was quiet. Music was in parks, libraries, churches, schools, post offices, nursing home, local theaters, and businesses and in the middle of streets. Most were free and only required that you bring a chair to get comfortable in if located outside.

The river concert on Friday evening is my most favorite part of the festival. Sitting and listening to a different band every half hour along with the birds, tugboat and the rolling of the river. Oh, and that’s the night for fair food, Polish dogs, lemonade and funnel cakes. The last Saturday is a New Orleans-style street strut and parade, more concerts and finishing up with the Headliner concert with Grammy-winning soul and gospel singer Candi Staton; John Paul White, formerly of the Civil Wars; Donnie Fritts, Hall of Fame songwriter; and singer Christine Ohlman aka “The Beehive Queen.”

Each day I would run home to check on the Hooligans and feed them. A couple of days Blackie was too tired to eat from whatever dig she was doing, so I had to wait until I got home around midnight to feed her. She’s been so intent on getting rid of all the varmints that I have to feed her an extra cup of food. Levi, on the other hand, gets a little less than normal.

While mowing after the festival, I found out what the big dig was. An armadillo made the mistake of crossing into the Hooligans’ territory and didn’t make it back out.

Between the weather and illness, my garden this year only consists of late Cherokee Purple tomatoes, crookneck squash and cucumbers. The squash and cucumbers planted in the garden area that I’ve used a lot of compost and mulched with newspaper and wood chips are already producing. Those that I planted in the flower beds a month before are half the size and just starting to bear. Even though mulched, it shows the value of adding compost.

I had a large number of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds stay around my place and nest as I have several youngsters at the feeders. With the crazy weather we had last spring, maybe they didn’t migrate as far north as normal. They were about a week late showing up at my place this year. I have six feeders up around the house and driveway, and each day it’s like an air raid area. They have really been fond of a patch of Turk’s Cap lilies and Black and Blue saliva with several bully birds guarding them and fighting off any other birds coming near. I planted several red crepe myrtles along the property line thinking the hummers would like them. They seem to ignore the blooms and use them as a perch to guard the nearby feeders. The Hooligans, who will chase or bark at any bird sitting on power lines or bushes, completely ignore the hummingbirds.

The festivals in the area are winding down as school starts. Next weekend is the Watermelon Festival in Russellville and, on Labor Day, the Coondog Cemetery birthday celebration. One thing that is not winding down is mowing the grass.

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