Columns » Bob Lancaster

Hell upcoming



One of these Augusts I'm going to stay indoors the whole month, hibernating through the doldrums as bears do through the cold, with no thought of returning to the grind until fall falls or anyhow makes a gesture.

Pap and them used to have to submit to the indignities of August — blind snakes and rabies and dried-up wells — and there are still those today (troops in Iraq, for example) to whom going out every day in August is like going to work every day in Hell. I think I'd have to ask Gen. Petraeus for a furlough. I'd have to tell him, “My gung is as ho as the next old boy's for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sir, but I didn't sign up for this.”

So here's a column for poor saps who can't avoid August, who have to walk off into it like the three guys in Daniel who wouldn't bend and wouldn't bow and wouldn't burn, and who for whatever unfair and unreasonable reasons can't snooze coolly through it till first frost. It suggests some possible diversions. Not very good ones, but there aren't any good ones. You'll just have to do the best you can.

• You could take gas-saving close-to-home mini-vacations to places like Big Flat and Harriet, and of course Cabot. There are some world-class weedy fields in and around these scenic places — and a heart-stopping plentitude of sheds, switching stations, and burning tire dumps. The grand tour will have you counting your blessing again, even in the days of the Dog.

• You could host your own fishing tournament. You might not have the prize money to attract the big-name anglers, sponsors and media, but you're just trying to get through August, right?, and that's doable merely by targeting a different brand of fish. Go after grinnel instead of bass. They put up a better fight than bass, and taste every bit as good. They're less glamorous, bonier, primeval, and so forth, but hey, we're not into fishing-tournament fine points here. Limit your entry field to morons you know who'd do it just for the free beer and the fraternal boatseat-amplified group poots. Don't let them .22 turtles off of logs if they get bored, though.

You could have a big come-ye-all backyard cookout. And do it very economically if you're agreeable to substituting native flora and fauna for ordinary high-priced grocery-store grub. Mosquitoes this year have been of such size, for instance, that you could grill up an impressive kabob of just their hams. You'll be surprised at the variety of free-ranging creatures out there who'll blend nicely into a mystery (mainly skink, of course) pate. There are gelatinous masses galore that, spread on saltines, make for a highly amusing guessing game, and, if fortune smiles, probably won't kill anybody. Bat, rat and dog-peter gnat improvisations. Terrapin on the half-shell. Marinated chugger spook. 

You could have an old-fashioned political speaking, and it would likely attract some major leaguers. A certain former governor would certainly be there if you offered unlimited quipping privileges and a courtesy family trough. The Man himself might if he thought the invite was earnest and not just needing a crippled duck to hooraw. Not McCain, though, if your deck isn't fully gerontologically ramped, nor Obama if there's melon.

You could attend any of several nearby brush-arbor thumping derbies in which dueling evangelists see which of their swarm can cure the greatest number of the sick and afflicted, save the greatest number of sinners and the most notorious parochially obdurate of them, and come closest to hoking forth the Holy Ghost in all its sweatless grandeur. As an alternative, the newer churches, gymmed and pooled, have central air — but you don't want to go there.

You could stage your own Summer Olympics, though you might have to ad hoc some of the track and field such as, in my case, the broad jump. A sewer leak out here behind the house has created a parallelogram of smelly muck that's the ideal size for broad jump training. By no means do you want to land in that godawfulness, so you'll give it your best effort to get across if somebody holds a gun on you and forces you to run in that direction. And as the leak continues the patch widens so you'll have to jump a little farther each day. IOC training by the book. 

You could put on a back-yard rodeo, in miniature if you'd like. There are fleas in the yard this year of a stature that they can bulldog half-grown cats. A true fact. I don't doubt they could bridle and mount bucking horseflies and not get thrown. If you get down close, you can actually hear thin strains of their mariachi music, which is an incessant thing with them. There are also rental emus for events like this.

You could have a Citizens Arrest Fest like the one that time in Mayberry — or like those Iowa protesters the other day pursuing Karl Rove — if cell space at your local hoosegow isn't a problem.. Or a big SUV Test Drive, with the auto companies donating all the necessary rolling stock, which they might do if you'd  agree not to make them take it back. Oil companies wouldn't donate the gasoline, though, you can count on that.

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