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Summer sing along

At the end of a hot summer day, when the stars come out and someone has built a campfire, there’s a rush to find the sticks for roasting marshmallows. People draw their chairs closer to the fire and voices, once easily heard, are now hushed as the flames become embers.

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Someone might have a guitar, but even without an accompaniment, it’s a natural thing for people to recall the campfire songs of their youth. It may be, “The Quartermaster’s Stores” or Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” but most of the words and melodies are remembered – and sung.


For those of my generation, the popular songs about summer are older ones, but for many of us, the words don’t seem to apply to life today.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” – Easy for whom? When I see that cellphones have replaced lunch pails; when some businesses have their employees on call 24/7 and a day at the lake means taking the phone, pager and the laptop computer along with weiners and buns, making a living is anything but easy for many.
“Fish are jumpin’” – But even after you’ve bought all the necessary licences, would you dare eat any fish that you catch in some waters? Many news reports of heavy metal and mercury in fish are enough to make a person swear off fish for life.
“I’ve got you under my skin” – We’ve always had mosquitoes and black flies to contend with, but with insect repellents, bites might have been a thing of the past. But now the scientists are waving the red flag, telling us that DEET, although the best repellent ever invented, is harmful and has been banned. So we forego the insect repellent, but now risk being infected with the West Nile virus from mosquitoes.
“Strolling down a shady lane” – Go ahead and stroll, but make sure you wear high top boots and thick socks, or you might get bitten by a tick. Ticks carry Lyme disease.
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“She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikini” – and I hope she also wore plenty of sunscreen with a protection factor between 30 and 45, or she will get skin cancer. And if she goes into the water, she must also be on the alert for spiny water fleas, zebra mussels, blue/green algae and pollution.
“Smoke gets in your eyes” – So does smog. Other irritants include fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other ‘cides’ people use so that their lawns will be more luxurious than their neighbours’.
“A bicycle built for two” – Buy a licence, wear a safety-approved helmet, have proper reflectors and obey all the rules of the road.
“In dreams I kiss your hand, madame” – but promise me you got rid of all the germs because you sang two complete verses of Happy Birthday while you washed with soap and water or used a handy bottle of instant hand sanitizer for those hand-kissing moments.
“…Sunshine and lollypops” – Always wear a hat in the sun, plus sunglasses that will block out both harmful UVA and UVB rays. Shun lollypops that might contain harmful red dyes.

Where has real, honest-to-goodness, spontaneous summer fun gone? We could have a barbeque, but dripping fats on hot coals contain harmful carcinogens that transfer to the meat, and improperly cooked hamburger can harbour E-coli bacteria.

We could just turn off the phones and pagers, go indoors away from the bugs, but instead, let’s put a few wet branches of leaves on the fire to make smoke which will keep the bugs away. Even with social distancing, we can still have a sing along. And so far, I don’t think we have to purchase a government licence to sing.

Now who is with me? “Fire’s burning, fire’s burning. Draw nearer. Draw nearer. In the gloaming, in the gloaming, come sing and be merry.”

That’s my view from Over the Hill.

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