HUCKABY: Dog days prove that God is still in charge

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Consider the seasons

Consider the certainty of the seasons of the year in the North Georgia Piedmont. Summer, no matter how hot and humid it might be, always gives way to fall. Granted, fall may be brief or late in arriving, but it always gets here -- and it is always followed by winter, which may, in itself, vary greatly in degree of frigidness and duration. As surely as the infrequent snows will melt into the red clay hills, spring will follow winter and be followed by another summer.

I often wonder how people can live in a climate of such sustained perfection and still doubt the existence of a God of Creation, and yet they do. Others just don't take time to consider the miracle of the rotation of the earth. And now, for the 60th time during my existence on this terrestrial ball we have entered, together, the dog days of August.

Now I bet you have always heard these sultry days of late summer referred to as the dog days but there may be a better than even chance that you don't know why. Allow me to enlighten you -- and don't feel bad -- I didn't know either until I looked it up. The term dates from ancient times when people believed that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, because it seems to rise and set with the sun during this time of year, was somehow controlling the weather.

I am certain that most of the folks I was raised with in Porterdale couldn't find Sirius in the sky if it were being towed by the Soviet Sputnik, but there were all sorts of superstitions that went with that period of the year given to a rash of pea shelling and last-minute canning.

For instance, you'd better not cut your foot or stub your toe or, heaven forbid, step on a rusty nail during dog days because everyone knew that sores wouldn't heal and you would most assuredly develop lockjaw. And if you happened to get bitten by a stray dog during dog days you might as well have your mama 'n' 'em call Sam Cowan and make funeral arrangements because nobody was ever known to have survived a dog bite during the height of dog days. Everybody knew that that was when dogs were most likely to be driven mad by the searing heat and contract rabies.

Now, truth be known, none of us ever knew a single person who ever got lockjaw -- or died from being bitten by a stray dog for that matter -- but far be it from us to allow facts to deter us from adhering to old wives' tales or superstitions. They were stated as fact and as fact we accepted them.

My mama would always remind me not to play in the tall grass at the edge of the woods during dog days because everybody knew that snakes got meaner during this time of year, and some folks even insisted that if you didn't put your right sock on first during dog days that you would fall and break your leg. This particular admonishment was of no concern to me because I never wore shoes or socks during the summer. After two months of walking on the hot sidewalks and constantly pulling sandspurs out of my feet, my soles were as thick and calloused as a moccasin bottom. Shoes were completely unnecessary. Besides, the ones I had discarded at the end of May wouldn't have fit by August anyway and we didn't go back-to-school shopping until the weekend before Labor Day.

Well, people don't pay much attention to dog days anymore. Why would we? We spend our lives inside now. Our central air and heating units keep our houses the same temperature year-round. We move from our air-conditioned houses into our air-conditioned cars and then step into our air-conditioned offices. We seldom slow down enough to pay attention to the environment outside our 76-degree bubble unless we are working in the yard or lounging by the pool. Fewer of us each year plant a garden or lay by food for the winter, and there isn't a whole lot of front porch sitting or fanning going on in our community.

But I've had time to sit and pay attention to the seasons this week. I've sat on my front porch and breathed the hot August air and listened to the cicadas in the distance -- did you know that the first frost would occur six weeks after the cicadas rise? I have decided that the dog days shouldn't be dreaded but celebrated. They are a reminder that no matter how much of a mess we may seem to be making of things down here, God is still in charge and ultimately, God's will will be done.

I think I'll let the Braves tend to themselves tonight and do a little front porch sitting and maybe have a bowl of homemade ice cream. The dog days will be gone soon. Fall will be here before you know it. Winter can't be far behind.