A.C. Snow

Hugging Southerners and summer sayonara – Snow

I was gathering groceries at the supermarket when I suddenly heard a high-pitched squeal and turned to see two women at the end of the aisle rush into each other’s arms in an Olympic-type hug.

As the friends chattered away excitedly, I thought of how Southerners are a culture of huggers.

Someone once said a Southerner will hug a fire hydrant if the mood hits him and nothing else is available. I cite an example.

My nephew Tim Dockery and a friend were dining at the Shelton Vineyard restaurant just off Interstate 77 near my hometown of Dobson.

When a woman walked in, Tim left his table, rushed over and gave her a hearty hug. The woman smiled warmly, disengaged herself and joined friends at a nearby table.

When Tim returned to his table, his friend asked, “Who was that woman you just hugged?”

“You know, I’m not sure,” Tim replied sheepishly. “She looks awfully familiar and she may be a former teacher or even a distant cousin. But I know her from somewhere.”

“For your information,” his friend laughed, “that’s Thelma Lou, Barney Fife’s girlfriend from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ on TV.”

As a result of the encounter, actress Betty Lynn has become a family friend.

After her retirement from the highly popular, Emmy-winning sitcom, Betty visited Mount Airy, Andy’s hometown, to help celebrate the town’s annual Mayberry Days. She fell in love with the place. After her California apartment had been burglarized twice, she moved to Mount Airy 10 years ago.

Recently, on the actress’ 90th birthday, the Foothills town celebrated their famous resident’s presence and contribution to the town’s significance as well as its economy.

As for hugging, normally it’s a heart-warming, harmless gesture. But a few years ago, when the Triangle area was beset by an epidemic of influenza, residents were encouraged to refrain from hugging and even shaking hands as a precaution against contracting the bug.

Sayonara to summer

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost spent.

Dusk steals a minute or two of daylight every day and the sun sleeps in a little later each morning.

The hummingbirds are gulping down the sugar water in preparation for their demanding sojourn to Central America. Flying at their maximum speed of 27 miles per hour, the journey is an endurance test indeed.

The newspaper is flush with ads pushing “back to school” bargains.

The cicadas, which we as kids called “jar flies,” drum their drowsy chant from the surrounding trees.

I’m a summer person and, despite the heat, summer’s signs of sayonara are not gladdening. That was not always so.

As we ride across Eastern North Carolina on the way to the beach, I gaze out across tobacco fields with stalks almost stripped of the “golden leaf” that for so long represented North Carolina’s chief economy.

Many of you also remember when summer was not a time for vacationing at the beach, hanging out at the swimming pool, attending summer camp or going on group trips to Europe.

Most rural barefoot boys with cheeks of tan spent summer days in the tobacco or cotton fields. September’s school opening provided a welcome escape from the drudgery at home.

I well remember the summer when I was 15. My just-widowed mother farmed me out to an older brother who had bought his own farm. It was dawn to dusk labor for the princely sum of $15 a month. That’s month, not hour! Nowadays, baby sitters can earn up to $15 an hour.

Hubby gifts

The recent column item regarding the early-marriage birthday gift of dish towels from my wife whom I had kept on a tight budget elicited the following from an anonymous reader.

“When I was 9 1/2 months pregnant with our first child and my swollen feet boasted 10 toes that looked like fat sausages, my husband not only gave me new sneakers, although I was in flip-flops, he also gave me a plastic laundry basket. Not just ANY laundry basket, he pointed out. A hip-hugging one to make the chore easier! The dang thing lasted 25 years and we sold it for $5 at a yard sale.”

She also recalled a friend whose farmer husband gave her a salt lick for their anniversary. They lived on a farm.

Nothing says loving like a salt lick.

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com