Friday, June 20, 2014

Theory 46: The perfect summer is almost free. Ask any redneck—like me!

One afternoon this week, I pulled Big Red into the Pilot on Northshore Drive (Knoxville, you know, the scary and friendly Pilot where SUVs from the ‘919 maneuver like Chinese puzzle pieces and purchase morning coffee from sweet cashiers?) to gas up for a little road trip to Townsend, TN. As I was about to pull out, I spotted a beautiful scene. A scene that screamed “summer.” A scene that I’m pretty sure even made Big Red smile. I watched a good old country boy, wearing a wife-beater t-shirt, sunglasses on a rubber rope, and a late June caramel tan, dump 12 cans of Natural Light and 10 pound bag of ice in the cooler that sat on his open tailgate. Headed to the lake? Fishing? “Cruising on a dirt road?” I’m mad that I didn’t take a better picture! I thought about asking him to pose, but, again, I had to get out of that Pilot puzzle alive, so I just snapped one out the window. He made my day. A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a chunky little boy, maybe 10 years old, literally DANCING as he waited for an ice cream at Brewster’s. He made my day. My hydrangeas bloomed a piercing, cotton candy blue last week. They made my day.

Oh, helk, yeah!

 Ask any redneck, or teacher, or teacher’s child, or country boy, or ice-cream lover, or broke college student, and will tell you: The perfect summer doesn’t cost much, if you are smart and imaginative and OUTSIDE. I tossed “redneck” into the title because I lean that direction this time of year. I’m seasonal. Fall: academic. Christmas: stressed out academic. Spring: Bohemian who is tired of academia. Summer: Redneck. Redneck, by my definition, just means someone who spends lots of time outside, for a living or by choice. Think tan lines, not restaurant behavior or upbringing. Think park rangers, construction workers, road crews, the guys at the serpentarium who toss raw chicken to alligators, the mile-high teenagers directing tour-ons down water slides.

Growing up, my summers in Sevier County were awesome. “Awesome” was a big word in the 80’s at Pigeon Forge Elementary. Big Booty J, who taught there, got so sick and tired of all her children, nieces, and nephews saying “Awesome” all the time that she banned it. We needed a word. So, my genius cousin A-Boo looked it up in the thesaurus and we adopted “Wondrous.” Just as obnoxious. Ha! Anyway, once Field Day and Awards Day were over, we had long, hot summers to play hard. Silver Dollar City, which then became Dollywood, passes were affordable. Vacation Bible School was free. My cousins and I swam for nothing at the Chalet Village and Riverside Hotel pools because Pooh and Uncle Gravy worked there. We tubed and skipped rocks in the Little River in the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Delicious and I watched Pooh fly-fish at Elkmont and Greenbrier in The Great Smoky Mountains. My Barbies threw fabulous parties in Kellum Creek on The Crippled Beagle Farm.

You haven’t had a real summer experience as a child, unless you’ve ridden in the back of a pick-up in Seale, Alabama to get an ice cream sandwich at a store whose floor is dirtier than your bare feet and your uncle’s truck’s floorboard.

Even folks who work year-round, like Tall Child, have background knowledge, permanent imprints from childhood stress-free summers of simple pleasure, that make workdays feel lighter in June, July, and August. Just last night, Tall Child and I took an 8 p.m. cruise to Cookout for chocolate milkshakes. He would NEVER do that in November.
Cousin Bags once said that her favorite thing about summer was “Cheez-Its!”

Agape Agave says her Edisto Beach trip (all women and children) tradition is to bring a giant bag of Flavor-Ice pops. For the life of me, I can’t rip those things open with my gompers. Can you? Flavor-Ice should sell safety scissors with their popsicles.

In this Theory, I want to explore what inexpensive experiences scream summer to you! I list below what I happily remember from childhood and enjoy now as a mother. I want to know your favorite summer stuff. Keep it simple and affordable for all my readers (some of whom are teenagers). For example, do NOT say “Trip to Greece.” Say, “Trip to see Grease at the drive-in on 321.”

Bug’s favorite (and inexpensive) stuff of summer---childhood to present:

Without a doubt. COUSINS from Alabama staying all summer in Tennessee!

Everything about Grandmama "Buddy" and Wimmie.

Watching my Uncle Trout kill a rattlesnake with a nine-iron.

Clothes lines.

Looking for good books in an air-conditioned public library.

Clogging or swimming or clogging while swimming (it’s possible) at the Grand Hotel in Pigeon Forge to South Star Band (headlined by cousins Moon and Baby).

Pontoon boats.

Watching Roscoe play Pac Man at Sugar Beach condos in Panama City Beach.

Making Michael Jackson “videos” with my cousins and performing them for all our parents in BBJ's basement on Douglas Lake.

Onion dip.





Eating boiled peanuts on the beach and using my toes to dig a little hole within tossing distance for the hulls.

Bass boats at the gas station.
Fishing with “night-crawlers”, which is also the nickname I gave Dogwood Debutante when she decided to use the online dating service “Plenty of Fish.” It worked. Just sayin'.

Squirting Gnome and Sharky with the garden hose.


Sliced fresh tomatoes.

Picking blackberries with Sharky and Delicious until our fingers are black with juice and polka-dotted with thorn pricks.


Frozen trout in the freezer.
Outdoor showers (hose, bucket, whatever works).

Shaving my legs with girlfriends on the back of a houseboat.

Beach towels hanging off porch railings.


Plastic swimming pools.

Hanging flower baskets.

~ ~ ~

Okay, fellow theorists, it’s your turn! But, so we can ALL enjoy your commentary, please go to either my personal Facebook page or to the Theories: Size 12 Facebook page to respond. I’ll pin a link to the blog and the question for you, “What inexpensive sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences scream summer to you?” I’d especially love to hear from my northern and international readers, since my comments are typically southern.

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 
Facebook: Jody Cantrell Dyer

(I posted the links at the bottom, too.)

Happy summer to all of you!!! And, to all the children out there in cyberspace, on behalf of your parents and teachers, I say/yell/demand:

For the love of summer, GO OUTSIDE!!!

My FAVORITE summer country song: CLICK HERE

Images to inspire you/make you laugh/help you remember. (Summer is all about imagery, isn't it?)

Pooh and friend

Sharky cruising Norris Lake

Bug relaxing on the river

Little Bug posing by Delicious's summer blooms 

Sharky on wheels.

Tall Child on water.

Good times with friends.

Summer treat.

Sharky swinging on The Crippled Beagle Farm

Little Sharky rinsing his sandy toes.

Delicious and baby Gnome, July Fourth 2011

Happy Hydrangea!

Sharky and one of his beagles

Gnome swinging on The Crippled Beagle Farm


Farm Cruise: Gnome and Delicious

Perfect supper: Sweet tea and friend green tomatoes.

Gnome at Metcalf Bottoms
My "boys of summer"
Let's talk! Find me and friend me and please post your favorite stuff of summertime!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 
Facebook: Jody Cantrell Dyer

Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...