Rejoicing Over Late-Summer Showers
After a wet spring that encouraged the moose, the mosquitoes, and the pond lilies, the rockbound coast of Maine enjoyed a long, hot dry spell. This caused our ``whether'' forecasters to retreat into the defensive promise of ``possible'' thunder showers, which was good well into late July, when a promissory rumble off to the west'ard astonished all by jingling a few drippy-droppies on the dry shingles and gurgled from the eaves into the rain barrel.
There is no sound in all nature more gladsome than a real shower that wakens the slumbering gentleman who went to bed weary from lugging pails of water to his panting cucumbers in the meadow yonder. As a long-time student of the ``possible'' shower, I assure all that none assuages the drought or puts weight on ears of sweet corn.
I have yet to hear of a gentleman thus awakened to his unbounded joy by a ``possible'' shower, yet we have had hundreds of ``possible'' showers this summer to parch the region.
Grandfather, who endured many a dry spell in his farming years, always greeted the midnight shower that was about to bring relief with the enthusiasm it deserved.
Asleep in his red-hot bedroom in the old shingle-palace, he would hear that first mutter of incipient threat, and wide awake, he would lie still to hear further remarks if any.
Were there a second distant rumble, he would bound from bed, descend to the kitchen, and proceed outdoors into the yard to give his entire attention.
Living alone, he could give all his attention to the coming shower, and he rejoiced that the fun was all his.
One July, I made one of my visits to the farm, coming by cross-country trolley car to the end of his road and then walking two miles to the farm. The ride would be a little more than an hour by car.
On this morning, I had just boarded the car when the skies opened and a deluge came to assuage the long dry spell. It was still raining hard when I hopped down from the car, so I hustled over to Roger Vessey's place and waited in the shelter of his porch until the shower gave up.
The sun was breaking out when I got to the farm. The doors were open, house and barn, but Gramp wasn't around. From kitchen evidence, I guessed he had not eaten breakfast.
More curious than alarmed, I set out to look for him, and I got soaked from wet gushes as I went up the pasture lane and came to the gap.
There I found him, and a sorry sight he was. Wet to the skin, rain was dripping from the ends of his fingers. He wore neither hat nor cap, and his wet head was running water down into his bread and it was dripping thence to the ground.
On his feet he had the Indian-made moccasins he used for house slippers.
He gave me his usual greeting, ``Oh, Johnnie-boy! I was hoping you'd come! It gets so lonesome here!''
``Good rain,'' I said.
He said, ``Everything was so thirsty!''
He had been out of the house with the first spit of rain and had been wandering about ever since to see the growing things speak their vast thanks for this relief.
We came to his field of buckwheat, a crop he grew each year for the use of his honeybees.
``Yesterday,'' he said, ``the buckwheat had wilted in the heat. See what rain means!'' He went on, ``Couple of days the scout bees will give the word, and the workers will be here to work the bloom.''
He stepped closer to the buckwheat, lifted a wet tip with one hand, squinted down, and said, ``Things come fast after a good rain. Come back in a week and I'll make hot biscuits and take off some new buckwheat honey!''
Would you believe that today, when I'm older than my grandfather was then, that every summer shower, except the ``possible'' kind, makes me think of new buckwheat honey? It's a dark honey, like basswood and goldenrod. Finest kind!
That morning - it was still well before noon when I found Grampy. We wandered together through the grass and the crops and the puckerbrush, and we looked at just about everything on the farm before the sun broke through and the sky cleared and our clothes began to steam.
We caught a couple of red-red tomatoes, and Gramp brought out the shaker of salt he kept under a bowl: Rain did tomatoes a lot of good, but was bad for salt. Come noontime, we were still collecting some rain with our feet and legs, but upperwards our clothes had dried.
At the house, we found Mr. Johnson in charge, and his immediate chore was to keep Gramp's pet rooster from sneaking through the open door into the kitchen. Mr. Johnson was the dog, named after a neighbor Gramp didn't care for.
We kindled a fire in the range, not for warmth or to dry out, but to make some dinner. Eggs were easiest and soonest, so we had eggs.
Until time for my trolley ride back, we played checkers. He liked checkers and boasted that he'd never won a game. It was easy to excuse this particular lazy day. He said, ``Shouldn't ever try to work in a wet garden.''
On the electric-car ride home, I remember thinking about the day that ended that year's drought. I remember thinking that some day I would relish it all over again.
Wow! Were Grampy and I ever some old soaking wet!
``Feast or a famine,'' he said.