The Dog Days of summer are upon those of us living in the northern hemisphere. It’s that time of year when people are water skiing, camping, playing in swimming pools, playing tennis and sitting in the shade of large trees sipping ice tea or lemonade. Okay, some are guzzling cans or bottles of beer too.
During many of the years when I was a kid, even up to when I was in high school, the Dog Days of summer involved spending Sundays at a small lake southwest of the city. I never did know who owned the lake and the property around it, but it wasn’t there for the public. It had a chicken-wire fence surrounding it and the gate had a heavy padlock on it.
Uncle Ray had the key that fit into that lock. I don’t know how this came about, but I was happy that it did. It wasn’t paradise by any means, but sometimes it felt like it. The entire family would pack up their swimming gear and spend the day swimming, water skiing, and just fooling around, protected from the rest of the world by the chicken-wire fence.
By the time I was thirteen, much of the family had stopped making the pilgrimage to the lake. This didn’t stop me though. I would get my swimming gear together and walk the mile and a half to Uncle Ray’s so that I could tag along with his family.
Either one my cousins or I would close the gate once the pickup truck was safely on its way to the loading dock with the motor boat trailing behind. We would set up the open tent next because out there the trees were scarce so we had to make our own shade. Then the two grills were set up for cooking the hamburgers and hot dogs.
When the adults sat down in their lawn chairs drinking a can or bottle of beer, it was time for the kids to have fun in the water. Every once in a while one of us would con one of the adults into driving the motor boat so that a couple of us could ski.
A ritual of sorts was always performed before we would leave the lake. All of the kids would pile into the boat and Uncle Ray would take us out to the middle. We’d jump out of the boat into the warm water of the late afternoon and swim without the restrictions of the walking dock that roped the swimming area close to shore.
These are days I remember with fondness. I remember feeling that all was right with the world.