I live on a small lake and as a diehard Southern girl who loves summer, I went looking for my go-to floatation device – an inner tube. Specifically, the kind that is black, with obscure little gray letters stamped on the rubber, and a short stem as opposed to a long one that hurts if you get hung up in it.
I went to a tire store on Two Notch Road. Nope. No inner tubes.
Went to a second tire store, on Clemson Road. Sorry. Not here. Did you try Wal-Mart? No, I don’t want a float made to look like the outside of a tire. I want a dadgum inner tube with stinky air inside.
Third place. Up around Blythewood. No go.
Heading home, I wondered whatever happened to the two-buck tube you could buy at the filling station and get inflated for free. (Back in the day, we got ours from Mr. Ardis at the Phillips 66 station at the corner of Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard.)
It was still on my mind when, in the checkout line at the grocery store, I noticed the front cover of TIME magazine.
The headline read, WHO KILLED SUMMER VACATION?
Well bless the soles of my bare feet!
Summer vacation in America, the article said, is under attack because of expense, people not wanting to take time off because they fear their jobs won’t be there when they get back, or, get this – the amount of work (including an impossible amount of emails) waiting upon their return.
I was real sorry to read all that. Sorry I couldn’t find a plain old inner tube, and even sorrier when, on the way home, I saw a sign stuck in the ground of a community center advertising some kind of summer camp that would improve a child’s computer skills. Maybe it was math skills, but it didn’t matter.
Summer, I concluded, is taking enemy fire.
So, time to bring in the heavy artillery. Time to brave the humidity and the chigger bites all around your underpants line and get out there where classic summer fun waits for anyone willing to go on the offensive, anyone willing to clothespin some playing cards to the bars of a bike so that when the wheels turn, the spokes hit the cards and all kinds of awesome racket occurs.
Time to trap lightning bugs in jars and let ’em go a little later. Time to damn up streams with mud, sticks and rocks and wait around to see how long the damn will last. Time to dress the dog up in a T-shirt and boxer shorts with his tail poking out of one leg. Time to spit on a little wad of white bread, turn it into a dough ball, stick it on the end of hook and wait for the bream to bite.
(They will; it’s the smelly spit that does it.)
And if you don’t want to fish with dough balls, how about this? Collect night crawlers by driving a wooden stake into the ground at night, rubbing a brick back and forth across the top of the stake and causing a vibration that will drive the big boys out of the ground. (I’m told it works. I’m told snipe hunts work too.)
Not into fishing though? Then how about cutting some Queen Anne’s lace by the side of the road, taking it home and letting the stem soak in water that has food coloring mixed in it? By morning, the lacy white blossoms will be whatever color you put in the water.
Speaking of blossoms. Got honeysuckle vines blooming? Pinch off a little flower and then bite the bulby end of the blossom. You’ll be treated to a tiny taste of sweet, sweet nectar.
And don’t forget tin-can phones. Building forts in the woods with whatever can be found in junk piles or secreted away from the house without an adult seeing you do it. Drinking water from the spigot. Putting the hose down your pants so you look like you’re peeing a rainstorm. Speaking of rain, playing in a hard one without worrying about your clothes getting wet. Creating a secret club with a password and enough official positions for everyone to be an officer. Harassing the cranky neighbors down the street by ringing their doorbell and running. Playing Monopoly until there’s a big falling-out over wheeling and dealing and everybody goes home in a pout.
Now, let’s see. Did I leave anything out? Oh, yes, I did. Find a hill, a couple of people, and a big old tractor tire inner tube. Put someone inside it, all curled up, and push it down the hill. Good for a few laughs, especially when the tire hits a tree and the person pops out all dazed and ornery-acting.
Shoot, come to think of it, maybe summer isn’t under attack. Seems to me it might just be getting started.
But wait just one minute.
Still got to get my go-to floatation device. An inner tube with a short steam and some stinky air inside. Ideas anyone?
Know of a story that needs telling? Email email@example.com. Ms. McInerney is a writer whose novel, “Journey Proud,” is based upon growing up in Columbia in the early ’60s.