June 25, 2013 10:00:58 AM
A Mississippi summer is like a hungry dog that's been scolded away from the dinner table: It sort of inches up on us, hoping we won't notice until one day we feel its hot, wet breath and know it's here.
Summer begins with the first greeting of "Hot enough for ya?" and ends the day old men don't have to wring out their bandannas before stuffing them back in their hip pockets.
It begins when the kids are out of school, country dogs won't come out from under the porch until dark and the farmer's market has all of the vegetables you actually like to eat -- purple hull peas, butter-beans, okra, etc.
It ends when all the tomatoes at the grocery store are yellow/orange and the kids have gotten at least one report card.
It begins when women put on sweaters when they go inside.
It ends when they put on sweaters when they go outside.
Around here, nobody bothers to consult the calendar because the seasons never seem to arrive of schedule.
On the calendar, seasons are marked by the position of the sun. June 21 is what is called the summer solstice, the day the sun is farthest north from the equator and the length of time between sunrise and sunset is the longest. So in addition to being the first day of summer, June 21 is also officially the longest day of the year. Unofficially, men will tell you the longest day of the year is the day the spouse drags them off to look at things called "fabric swatches" that are used in something called "window treatments."
Summer is not simply a condition of the weather and summer's arrival may vary. When it does show up, we know it.
It is marked by any number of things that are unique to the season.
Outdoorsmen will tell you one sure indicator of summer is that you begin to wander upon "abandoned" white-tail deer fawns. The fawns aren't really abandoned, of course. Early in life, fawns are supposed to be alone for most of the day. The doe takes great care of her fawns and leaves them bedded, returning several times a day to nurse them. Most fawning takes place between June and August. So when you see an "abandoned" fawn, leave it alone and know that summer is here.
You will know it's summer when the watermelons you eat don't have a Florida sticker on them.
Johnny Gilmer, who runs his family's Cherokee Watermelons farm in Caledonia, confirms that summer is just around the corner.
No watermelons yet, he confirmed Monday, but it's close. The Gilmers are the biggest supplier of local watermelons and Johnny is impatiently waiting for those first watermelons. Maybe this weekend, he says, but definitely by July 4th.: "Then, they'll be coming as fast as we can pull 'em," he says.
Has summer arrived in the Golden Triangle? It depends on who you ask. Parents of school kids will say yes. Watermelon fans will say not yet.
The temperature and the humidity are both consistently in the 90s now.
We can feel the hot, wet breath of a Mississippi summer.