and livin’ is easily perilous
The summer sun is a lousy kisser, to those of us who end up blistered.
With apologies to Frank Sinatra for twisting Johnny Mercer’s lyrics my way, I must vent about Old Sol’s merciless punishment of us fair skinned Irish lads.
Part of the reason I cooked in the sun was because it also was the age of innocence, in the mid to late ’50s, when kids ignored parents’ orders not to slam the screen door as we zipped out of the house on summer mornings and signaled our return when we slammed it again when we got home for supper.
We were free to disappear all day because our elders didn’t fret about our safety, other than to caution us not to take candy from strangers.
Although sunscreen had been invented in the ’30s, it usually was called suntan oil, and it was a rare commodity in small towns, more suited to the citified fancies.
Land sakes, the Coppertone girl didn’t even bare her butt until a 1959 ad campaign portrayed that playful cocker spaniel tugging on her bikini bottom, with its now politically incorrect slogan of “Don’t Be a Paleface.”
My awakening to the power of the sun occurred after several cousins and I spent the whole day on a baseball field of a tiny Nebraska town. We were fully exposed to the sun, as there were no dugouts and only a few trees for shade.
The other three just got burns that began their annual browning ritual,cheap nfl jerseys while I ended up with blisters so severe they even had their own blisters. I spent many days with my neck slathered with creams to ease the pain.
To this day, I don’t tan. Oh, I still try every summer, but Kate scoffs at my attempts, tells me I’m burned, not tanned. She admonishes me to shaddup and slap on my SPF 5,000.
I recount my blistering not to encourage tanning, but rather, the opposite. Back in the day, we had no clue about how damaging the sun is to skin to the point of causing cancer.
As long as I’m telling a cautionary summer tale, it seems appropriate to piggyback a few more as public service announcement.
Not the least of the perils, but one that gets little attention, is chomping on a cob of corn. It’s not the so much the potential for choking or inadvertently swallowing a tooth, although those are possible.
The real menaces are the corn cob holders. I made it darn near seven decades without injury, until last summer, when I felt a pinch in my lip and started bleeding. I hadn’t secured the corn holder properly, and it slipped out and stabbed me.
“Why is your lip bleeding?” Kate asked unrhetorically.
Too embarrassed to admit my folly, and with the salt burning into the wound, I managed a feeble, “Uh, ouch.”
Warning: Don’t stab yourself with a corn holder. Plan B: If you do skewer yourself, put a napkin to your mouth and hack, excuse yourself from the table, saying a kernel is stuck in your throat. Then go hide in the can until you staunch the bleeding.
I discovered a previously unknown hazard just the other day, when I slipped batteries into the bug zapper that Kate got me because the gnats in the backyard irritate her.
The battery powered device is shaped like a tennis racket, and the “strings” are electrified, so a person can fry gnats, skeeters and other flying insects with a few deft swings.
I should have known that touching it might hurt, after growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, when the crackle of insects flying into the zappers outside Dairy Queens were as much a part of summer nights as lightning bugs, chirping crickets and belching bullfrogs.
But curiosity got the best of me, as I reached out and touched the metal strings, ever so quickly. A couple of double A batteries can deliver a surprising jolt. I shrieked like a little girl and muttered through clenched teeth what I imagine might have been Charlie Starkweather’s final words.
I’ll still use it, without touching it and, of course, not while standing in a puddle in the rain.
But I also just discovered an alternative.
A pitch for an assault gun that just came in over my email transom promises to unlevel the playing field so mosquitoes and flies don’t have the advantage.