OPINION COLUMNS

Remembering warmer times

By Mack Thweatt | Published Saturday, November 17, 2018
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One of my least favorite things in the entire universe is cold weather. When the temperature dips below 65, I don’t function well. I don’t function real well above 65 anymore honestly, but that’s another story for another time.

Suffice it to say that I hate winter. So when the first cold hits like it did recently, I sometimes think back on “warmer times” in an attempt to survive at least the initial onslaught. It doesn’t really help, but it sounds good anyway.

Mack Thweatt

It was two summers ago. Four of our grandkids and their parents were with us as they waited for the construction of their home to be completed. Other grandkids, great-grandkids and cousins were nearby and came by often to visit or stay over. So this is about all of them and probably most kids at one time or another to which summer has meant nothing more than there being no school. No need to wake up early. No schedule to keep. No need to dress appropriately or any other way – or to dress at all. If rain had brought sufficient water to activate the mud puddles, they could run through them barefooted and with abandon. At least for the most part, no things to keep you from doing pretty much what you wanted to.

It was the summer of the garden, locusts and locust shells, wasps, yellow jackets, bees and any other kind of bug or insect – even those that “bited,” trees that could be climbed and the inevitable tumbles out of those trees. It was the summer of building a thousand different forts and other structures assembled from any material that was loose (or could be made to be loose).

Traps were a big part of that summer, and they too could be made of virtually anything, but Nanny’s clear plastic bowls with lids were especially popular for both catching and keeping anything that needed to be captured and detained. One particularly popular prey was toads and an occasional wayward bullfrog. They were housed after their capture in the inner part of an old minnow bucket that had the holes in it that allowed air to get in. The majority of the detainees were released at the end of the day or the next morning. Some had been caught and released so many times that it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if the kids took the bucket out and banged on it a couple of times and the toads and frogs simply hopped into it in an attempt to save time and effort on both sides. A few were left in the bucket too long and became fatalities. Believe me when I say that if you have never experienced the aroma that wafts from the carcass of a toad that has “cured” for two or three days in a hot Texas summer, you should consider yourself very fortunate.

The garden was a major part of that summer and was the first order of business after waking up most mornings – taking priority even over breakfast. The first question from the kids after they got out of bed was usually “Have you been to the garden yet?” We would go pick what was ready and sometimes wound up with a few things that were not ready since it is hard to tell a 2-year old with his small hands full of green tomatoes that they don’t need to be picked yet when he asks, “PaPa is these ready yet?” Now, since I don’t know of a good way to get them back on the vine, he is told that they are just right and to go put ’em in the bucket.

During a time when all the kids were here at once I decided to dig potatoes. There happened to be the same number of potato plants as there were kids, so each one got the potatoes from “their” plant after they were dug. Things went well until the digging was finished and World War III broke out over whose plant had the most, biggest, roundest, flattest and several other lesser known and under-appreciated categories of potatoes. We’ll definitely find a better way to do it next time.

The garden also brought one of the highlights of the summer as it was the site of the Great Armadillo Capture. We were gathering vegetables one morning when one of the kids yelled, “PaPa there goes an armadillo.” The chase was on. The pursuit went the length of the garden a time or two with none of us being able to get a handle on the varmint. Finally, only shortly prior to the impending fatigue-fueled collapse of PaPa, and with the aid of an overgrown fence row that the ‘dillo could not negotiate his way through, we managed the capture with a somewhat firm grip on his tail. After pictures, the captive was placed in a dog kennel where it was kept for three or four days. It was offered a wide variety of things to eat that ranged from grass to flowers to grasshoppers to dog food to vegetables and everything in-between – all of which were refused. Its saga finally ended one day with an “escape” that took place when all of the kids just happened to be gone. It was last seen headed across the fence to the neighbor’s land. If armadillos smile, it is safe to say this one’s went from ear-to-ear.

The summer two years ago reminded me of some when I was younger and the only things that mattered was what was happening and what we were doing at that particular time. If I am lucky, the kids will look back on this time and remember it as fondly as I do. Maybe they will even smile as big as I imagine that armadillo did. Oh, did I mention that I hate winter?

Mack Thweatt is a longtime Messenger photographer and copy editor.

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