Hudson: Better not let me catch you in that pond!

That’s what Mama always said to me.

I always thought to myself, “ok Mama, I want let you catch me, hahaha.”
Once I learned how to swim, I was in Mr Nelson’s pond almost everyday in the Summer. Mr. Nelson was our neighbor. He built a pond on his farm when I was about six years old. Several of my cousins and uncles, and I, would sneak over to the pond in early summer, and frolic for hours at a time.

By Jay Hudson Ambling Along

By Jay Hudson
Ambling Along

We learned to swim by climbing on a long board that would almost support our skinny little bodies. We would paddle around until the board scooted out from under us, and we would find ourselves swimming. It was a simple, but effective way to learn.

Mom was terrified when she found out we had been going swimming with no adult around. She made all kinds of threats, but she was wasting her breath. She never quit making threats though.

About the first week of July she would resort to fear tactics. ” Jay, it’s dog days now, and you can’t go swimming at all if you’ve got sores and scratches on you. You’ll get blood poison and die if you do. I know you don’t believe me, so just go on and do it anyway.”

That put the fear of  God in me, for a few days anyway. A country boy always had sores of some kind or other. We took playing seriously, and we went at it pretty hard.

Mama didn’t know the exact time of  Summer that dog days started, but she said she reckoned it started about the middle of July and lasted until the end of August, on account of it was so hot that the dogs just layed around all the time. The heat and humidity made it too hot to chase anything.

I always believed  Mama, for a couple days anyway. I have never known any Hudson to accept a parents authority, or anyone else’s for that matter, for more than a couple of days. Finally I couldn’t stand it. I decided to go swimming anyway and see what would happen. I had a couple of bad sores from skinned places on my knees, so my plan was to just ease in to the water without making a big splash. That way I could watch for signs of trouble.

I did, and nothing happened. I didn’t get sick at all. I figured it was just another one of  Mama’s little tricks she used before she resorted to a switch.

The rest of the boys joined me in the pond. Not a single one of us got sick from it either. We almost drowned a few times, but we didn’t get sick. We would stay in the water so long that our skin would wrinkle up like a prune.

As I got older, I picked at Mama about all the stupid old wives tales she had learned from her elders. She would really get angry at me. “You just wait and see ,you crazy idiot,” she would say. “One of these days your mess is gonna catch up with you.”

When I got to high school, I finally learned the truth about “dog days.” It had nothing to do with dogs, except in myth. It’s the period of  Summer about twenty days before and twenty days after the conjunction of the dog star, Sirius, with our Sun. That translates to approximately from about July 3 rd, to about the middle of August. It just happens to be the average hottest time of the summer. Since Sirius is the brightest star in the sky, during the time it rises and sets with the Sun, ancient folklore assumed that was the reason for the hot weather in Summer,and Sirius got it’s name from the ancient Egyptian  God, Osirius, whose description in pictograms resembled the head of a dog. Hence, the term, dog days.

Recent discoveries have proven there is an element of truth to the old wives tale. A bacteria called vibrio vulnificus is found in some pond water , usually between May and October. This bacteria can enter the body through a sore or other wound. Once in the body it can cause an infection called necrotizing faciilitis, which is a flesh eating bacteria. There have been several cases recently where people have been killed by this infection.

For everyone who hates the dog days of Summer, don’t worry because the precession of the equinoxes is occurring earlier in the northern  Summer. In a few thousand years it will be in the Winter.

I never told  Mama all that. I figured she didn’t need to know.

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