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Four Years at the Mount

The Dog Days of Summer

Sophomore Year: A new kind of leash

Kyle Ott
Class of 2015

Itís hard to beat the heat without AC, but thatís exactly what two intrepid young boys set out to do one hot August day. The oppressive heat coupled with the sweltering light of the sun made for an impossible adversary, a foe made all the more intimidating by the boysí small size and insignificant ages. Despite all these things working against them, these two unlikely heroes set out to make the Dog Days of August their family pet.

The above encounter, while being only slightly (ok, maybe more than that) embellished for creative reasons, was exactly the sort of thing that my younger brother Kollin and I set out to accomplish many years ago when we had left our birthplace in New York and moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to our motherís parents. In addition to the normal rigors associated with moving, we also had to contend with a change in the way we lived, trading one kind of house for a completely different one. In a very short period of time, we abandoned our clean, climate-controlled apartments in Cortland and moved to a small house on a hill in central Pennsylvania. The house was a cramped affair for a family of four. Though small, it was a quaint place to raise two rambunctious boys; it lacked one vital trait necessary for surviving the August heat: air conditioning.

Thus, my parents were faced with a conundrum: how do you raise two small children in a house that is equal parts home sweet home and hotbox? The solution, while simple, proved to be the source of success for our mission of summer survival. What was this clever solution you may ask? Simply, we had to find ways to stay out of the house. It may sound unorthodox (and let me tell you, it was), but the concept proved to be utterly successful in its execution. As long as there were fun ways to get out of the house and distract us from the heat, we could easily survive the long summer days and slink back home when the sun had set and the nights were crisp. With our enterprising mother, a dedicated father, and two boys who could easily be amused by a paper bag, empty or otherwise, we had no shortage of entertaining excuses to leave our house. My brother and I set out to beat the heat in style with tons of ideas and our eagerness to use them.

One way that my brother and I would beat the heat that August was to make a solemn quest to visit every single public playground in the area and rate them on a scale. We judged every playground as shrewdly as an experienced merchant would examine his wares. We measured how high the swing-sets could take us into the air, how fast we could spiral down the slides and how much monkeying we could do on the monkey bars. Of course, such decisions had to be made thoroughly, and as such we devoted a day to playing on each playground to make sure it was properly tested. It didnít matter to us that the heat continued to beat down on us; we had all the toys we could ever want. Distracted as we were by our task, we were able to completely ignore the heat and squeeze a weekís worth of fun out of our public parks. Culminating this week (and coincidentally occurring on one of the hottest days in August), we crowned one playground the greatest of them all and devoted an entire day to playing on it and appreciating our personal favorite.

When the days turned too hot for even our adventurous spirits, we turned to a little hole in the wall haven: a tiny candy store called Georges. This little store in Hanover carried every kind of candy imaginable, from sour peach gummies to fourteen kinds of Tootsie Rolls. The elderly couple who ran and owned the store, not for profit but for the communityís enjoyment, was incredibly accommodating to a pair of energetic young kids and was always pleased when weíd walk through the door. My brother and I would be given a single dollar (a virtual fortune to us) that we could spend on whatever we wanted. So, much like a kid in a candy store (pun intended), we would whittle away the hours munching on sweets and enjoying life.

My brother and I then turned our attention from playing around to learning something about ourselves and the world around us. We embarked on the now legendary "Library Tour." In order to escape record temperatures, we devoted a week of our time to journey to every public library within driving distance and spend an afternoon reading the works inside. The immediate benefit of this epic sojourn was being able to get out of the sweltering streets and into lovely climate-controlled buildings. The true benefit, however, came from the appreciation of knowledge that was being fostered right under our noses. When we toddled into a library we were treating it much as we had treated those first playgrounds: as places with things inside for our amusement. In reality, a love for learning and an appreciation for the written word were being engrained into our minds, an appreciation that persists even to this day.

While these stories may seem like a window into a simpler, more innocent time, they help to illustrate an important point about human ingenuity and the ability to face adversity head on. Overcoming something as simple as the August heat may not seem like much, but the skills honed by defeating small challenges can cause the kind of personal growth that can lead to amazing changes down the road. For example, when I think back to the days when I was unsure of what I was going to do with my life and I first considered a career in English, my thoughts turned back to those summer days spent among the stacks of our public libraries, curled up with a book that stimulated my imagination and my mind in equal measure. Those formative days have led up to my decision to pursue writing as a career, attend Mount St. Maryís University, and begin writing for The Emmitsburg News- Journal.

So the next time the sun beats down upon you, or youíre drowning in a wave of heat, treat the heat as a challenge and allow the summer to mold you into a stronger person. After all, it only takes a little ingenuity to take the snarling Dog Days of August, and make them faithful companions. Iím Kyle Ott; wonít you sit and read with me for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott


Junior Year: Once Upon a Heat Wave

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Weíve all experienced those days when the miserable heat and even worse humidity makes it feel as if we really could be melting. This is the story of one of those days.

*Buzz buzz* I reluctantly open one eye and seek the culprit that ruined my perfectly good dream. Of course, itís the alarm on my phone telling me that 9 oíclock is far too late to sleep in on a perfectly good summer day. I pacify the alarm and tumble out of bed, reaching for my tennis shoes and a hairband. A quick stretch and Iím off on my morning run. When I open the door a wall of humidity and heat stops me in my tracks. Whatís the relative humidity today? 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Thatís just ungodly.

A half hour later Iím soaked from head to toe in sweat, and I revel in the basementís cool air as I return indoors. Heading upstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water, I notice the temperature is something similar to what I would expect to feel radiating from an oven. I check the air conditioner. Itís making a horrible sound, like itís grinding up pebbles, and it spits out a pitiful stream of lukewarm air. Mom will be thrilled. I call her and let her know that our faithful air cooling contraption has finally kicked the bucket. She tells me sheís already called the repair man to come out and replace it.

It suddenly seems crucial that I have that glass of water and return to the basement where itís 20 degrees cooler. The television is already on and displaying a golf game, courtesy of my grandparents who still arenít quite sure how to turn the TV off and resort to muting it instead. They drove up from North Carolina for a weeklong visit in order to attend my cousinís outdoor wedding...which is today. Hopefully we donít all melt before she says, "I do."

I check my email, watch a quick show, and before I know it, it is noon and time to bring the horses in. Stepping back outside I feel the full force of the dayís heat which has culminated into a stuffy haze thick enough to cut. A post I saw on Facebook suddenly seems perfect: "Satan called. He wants his weather back." Hopping on the RTV, I ride down our gravel road to the barn, where the two horses stand looking miserable as they swish their tails at the flies that are swarming around them.

The moment I walk into the barn and start setting up the stalls Ė putting hay in the corners and water in the buckets Ė a curious head pops in over the open Dutch doors. My mare, Ruby, desperately wants relief from this heat. I open the door for her, and she eagerly walks in, immediately sticking her nose in the water Iíve prepared. Three, four, five gulps later, and she has already drunk half the bucket. I plug in an overhead fan, and she positions herself under it, closing her eyes. Thatís my cue to leave her alone.

I prepare the second stall and walk out into the far pasture to retrieve our only other horse, Bravo. Since heís completely blind, we keep him separate from Ruby, who can be a bit rambunctious. His head perks up, ears twitching in my direction as he hears me unclip the chain on the gate. He takes a couple hesitant steps towards me, proving to me just how eager he is to go inside out of the sun.

With both horses comfortably inside the barn, I head back up to the house where my grandfather greets me, obviously unconcerned about preparing for my cousinís wedding as instead he is dutifully watering the plants which wilt in protest to the extreme heat.

Inside the house, things arenít nearly as carefree. The morning has raced by, my parents are home from work, and itís time for everyone to get ready for the wedding. A simple enough task, you may say, but not when the AC is broken and your parents insist it is too hot upstairs to prepare in their own bathroom. In the time it has taken me to shower my mom has moved into my bedroom; by the sounds of it, my dad did the same thing to my brother.

Iím sure it would have been comical to watch as the five of us race in and out of our little bathroom. I dove in to gather an armful of supplies in the hopes of avoiding the chaos and preparing in my bedroom. My mom walks in behind me and promptly jumps in the shower, and my grandmother lurks outside the door hoping I can help her with her necklace. My dad waits for the shower while my grandfather sits on the couch, the only one who is ready and unperturbed by all the commotion. Hot air fills my room as my mom and I dry our hair, and I canít be sure but the fumes from the hairspray may be suffocating me. Suddenly, everyone is in the car but me as Iím left cramming my feet into heels and hopping out the door in pursuit.

When we arrive at the venue, I procrastinate getting out of the car. It is four oíclock and sweltering; I just want one more minute of the carís air conditioning before I sweat. We are ushered to the propertyís garden, where rows of white chairs await us. A small basket filled with programs sits along the garden path; everyone is sure to grab one Ė who turns down a free fan? Though there are certainly people here from the brideís side of the family, as many people as possible squeeze into the groomís side where there is just the slightest bit of shade from a neighboring tree. We are no exception.

The music starts and the bridesmaids trickle down the aisle, each one walking just a little faster than the last, until the bride herself emerges with her father. Despite the wretched heat, she looks beautiful in a simple, understated gown and bird cage hair piece. Throughout the ceremony, my program is put into good use as I fan myself, achieving a breeze that is weak but welcome. I feel and probably look as if Iíve walked under a waterfall. My fellow guests arenít any better off as everyone fans themselves and dabs their foreheads with tissues. Weíre all more than grateful that everything is said and done in about 20 minutes, and we canít get inside fast enough.

Much to my delight, the rest of the evening is spent talking and eating, making speeches and taking pictures in the cool of the banquet hall. The only reason to step back outside into the heat wave is to leave, which we do around eight oíclock. Itís early, but my mom and I still have hungry horses to feed, and Iíd prefer to get home before theyíve destroyed the barn.

The horses are whinnying as we pull up, not understanding what could have possibly been so important that we had to feed them this late. Under the breeze of the fans, theyíve obviously recovered from their heat induced comas as they paw impatiently for another pile of hay to replace the ones theyíve eaten.

Around 9:30 pm, my mom and I are finally able to walk into the house and stay there. A long day of sweating has made me thirsty; as I head upstairs for a drink, I notice the air conditioner was replaced while we were out. Instead of the delightful oven temperatures I experienced earlier, it now feels like Iíve been dropped into a freezer. I like it better that way.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones


Senior Year: Summertime

Samantha Strub
Class of 2013

Summertime is the time of year when it is acceptable to waste the day away doing absolutely nothing. It is accepted and even encouraged to lie around and be lazy.

You spend the day sitting at your 8-4 job, working but wishing that you could be somewhere else. Your job suddenly becomes unimportant as you stare out the window wishing it were quitting time. I always tend to sit at my desk and daydream the hours away, almost begging the day to hurry up and be over so I can leave my responsibilities aside and enjoy the summer. Sadly, my responsibilities and the desperate need for money take a toll on my summertime enjoyment. I always end up working extra hours or working on the weekends in order to make the money needed for tuition and bills. As Iím working, my mind wishes that it could go back in time to when my summers were carefree enjoyment. They always say that you donít know how good you have it until itís gone. That statement couldnít be any truer; I had no idea how good I had it back then. Now, as responsibilities call, I plan my summertime enjoyment around working, but that doesnít make those lazy days of summer any less enjoyable. In fact, I appreciate them even more and the memories are just as timeless.

My favorite pastime during the summer is lying out by the pool. Those hot and sunny summer days are the perfect times to lie outside by my pool and tan. You plug in your headphones, lie back and relax while the sunís rays shine down on you. It is the perfect way to spend a truly lazy dayóbasking in the summer rays while listening to some tunes. When you lay out with a friend or siblings, the laughs go right along with the great enjoyment of relaxing and tanning by the pool, though someone always ends up getting thrown into the pool. Some of my fondest memories are of my siblings, friends and I. As an added bonusóyouíre getting tan!

Iím famous for bringing another friend with me when I lay outsideóa book! As they say, books are friends that are always ready to talk to us, and I always have a book in my hand. I even have a purse big enough to allow me to carry a book in it. It is a favorite pastime of mine to always have a book in hand. I will lie outside for hours with a book in my hands. During the summer, I have the time to read pleasure books. During the school year, I still read but I read the novels that are assigned during class. I wish I could read more but between classes, working two jobs, and homework I simply do not have time. One of the reasons I always look forward to the summer is so that I can read all of the books that I have wanted to read since last summer. Over the summer I usually end up reading probably about fifty books or more because during any free time I have, I read. That is one of the reasons that I have a purse big enough to carry a book in it because I bring a book with me wherever I go. You never know when youíre going to need something to do. On days when I have nothing else to do, I read while lying outside and occasionally jumping in the pool when the heat becomes unbearable.

On the days when we are not relaxing by the pool, my family and I are out on the boat, catching some waves. My dad bought our boat when he was deployed in Washington State. It was a surprise to all of us, even Mom. It was sitting in the garage of the house we rented when we moved out there while Dad was deployed and we were admiring it, wishing we could use it when Dad calmly said, "Well, we can use it because itís ours." The boat became our new toy. Any day that Dad had off, we went exploring in the boat. It also became bonding time on summer days for our family because no matter what age you are, everyone enjoys the boat. Every summer since then, my family and friends go out on the boat when we have off and spend the day tubing, skiing and swimming. We usually bring drinks and food and have a picnic either on the boat or at a beach. The days we spend on the boat are always relaxing and much needed. We relax on the water without a care in the world, watching the clouds go by.

When the heat isnít too hot to bear I go riding. This is more difficult now that I no longer own a horse, but that is what friends are for right? When it is not too hot I make a point to go riding. There is no greater feeling in the world than sitting on the back of a horse on a warm summer day. The wind is blowing your hair and you are sitting in the saddle without a care in the world except for the pasture and the trail before you. Usually you think about the different techniques that will help you attain the skills that you want your horse to learn or perfect but that does not take any effort; that is a natural tendency for any horseback rider. You would think about that no matter what, but during the summer it comes more naturally. For a horseback rider, the summertime is when you really focus on working while also making sure that you take the time to go on trail rides, camping, and swimming with the horses with the company of good friends. Some of the best summertime memories I have are from when my riding buddies and I went off on a riding adventure.

No matter where you are from, every hometown has its own summertime celebrations. The traditions that I have grown up with or just recently started to create are memories that will stay in my heart forever. Who doesnít like good food, music and rides? If you answered no one, that is what I was thinking. That is what Summerfest and the Wisconsin State Fair bring to my hometown every summer. There are always good bands that come for pretty cheap or even for free. It is a guaranteed good time with your friends that we wouldnít miss for the world. The fair food makes the trip down to Milwaukee well worth it. The cheese curds, funnel cakes and Hawaiian Shaved Ices always call my name. Some people come for all of the varieties of fried food such as fried butter, Oreos, cheesecake, corn dogs, peanut butter, pickles, and even fried chocolate-covered bacon. Personally, I do not think most of these things that are considered fried deliciousness sound all that appetizing, but people all over rave about them. Without fail, my friends always dare me to go on the rides that they know I hate. Why I continue to go on them year after year is beyond me, but somehow that is always how it works! I think it is because when I want to go on the Ferris wheel, they have to go on with me even if they are afraid of heights. So it becomes a tradeoff. The best part is walking on the grounds laughing and goofing off with your friends, trying to find ways to stay cool during these lazy summer nights, and eventually hopping on the back of a motorcycle to go home.

It is guaranteed that the best summertime memories come from the laughs and the friends with whom you share the experiences. Donít forget to use the rest of the summer to have lazy and unforgettable summer days and nights.

Read other articles by Samantha Strub

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