Laurel Fork

Laurel Fork when the water’s high.

It’s hot.

Oh, I know, it’s a lot hotter other places, but when you opt to live in the Appalachian Mountains it isn’t because you love toasty summers. We’ve been in the 90s every day for too long now. At least it cools down at night!

The heat has me reminiscing about hot summer days from childhood and all the ways we found to keep cool in those pre-air-conditioning days. Here are the top ten ways I remember keeping cool:

  1. Aunt Bess’ swimming hole. Icy cold water rushing over smooth shelves of stone was absolute heaven. There was a big rock to jump off of and another to sit on in the sun before slipping back into that welcoming water.
  2. Mason jars of ice water. The best plan was to not work out in that beating down sun, but when it was time to put up hay, there was little choice. I remember carrying many a sloshing jar clinking with ice to the men in the field. Water beaded on the outside of the jar and somehow water tasted better with chaff in your hair and the sun on your back.
  3. Grandma’s fan. There was often a fan whirring near Grandma’s back door, blowing air into the overheated kitchen. We would crouch in front of the fan and speak into it to hear how the blades distorted our voices.
  4. Rock hopping. Behind Grandma’s house we could wade in Laurel Fork, hopping from rock to rock along the creek. Water is nature’s air conditioning and it was always cooler under the canopy of trees where water chattered all around us.
  5. The bed of a pick-up truck. I know, I know, it’s not safe to stand with your feet planted firmly on the metal bed, hands on the cab of the truck, and face full in the wind. But it was surely cooler there.
  6. Flat on your back under a maple tree. The tree offered shade, the sky offered a breeze, and there were clouds to watch as they changed shape and rolled on into tomorrow.
  7. Playing in the rain. Give us a nice downpour with water to be collected from the drainpipes and nothing on but our underwear and we were practically shivering with the cool.
  8. The cellar. Bins of potatoes gave it an earthy smell while rows of canned produce gleamed in the light from the open door. And it was cool, cool, cool down there.
  9. Eating homemade ice cream. It was hard work to make, but we were distracted by tasting the salt water as it dripped from the drain spout. And forget curing the end product, we just pulled the paddle out and dug in. Cool all the way down.
  10. A hammock under a towering pine. Something about being suspended in air by a giant spiderweb is automatically cooler. And if you swing, there’s surely a breeze.

What’s your favorite way to keep cool these days?