July Means Dodging Heat and Bottle Rockets

Got two things headed our way in July.

They can both be fun. They also can both be dangerous.

I’m talking about summer heat and fireworks.

They happen to belong together in this particular month.

July brings the kind of weather we wear. The humidity is ever-present, meaning it resides right under our clothing. All of it. We stay sticky. We change our drawers more than we change channels on a TV. We walk around feeling as if we’re breathing through a wet blanket. Women completely give up on trying to fix their hair. What’s the point? Any hair products applied will melt, and any styling is going to look the same within mere moments of stepping outside. Every lady will sport the “just stepped out of the shower” look even if she hasn’t showered in days. Mascara drips, so every woman we encounter looks as if she just watched the end of “The Notebook” again.

Guys don’t care about our hair, but we do try to find ways to keep as dry as we can. I keep a towel in my truck just for wiping my face after golfing or whatever. I don’t want my lips sliding across my wife’s pretty face when I’m trying to steal a smooch. I hate missing my target and landing in her ear.

This month is about the time we’ll start seeing tons of “Beat the Heat” ads and features. Plenty of suggestions and tips on — basically — not dying. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real possibilities if one isn’t careful.

Sorry. We’re not beating Texas heat, man, unless we buy a timeshare somewhere in the Antarctic.

The only relief I’ve ever found is water, and I ain’t just talking about the kind we drink. I’m talking about the kind allowing us to submerse ourselves in our efforts to escape the sweltering temperatures. Shade blocks sun but has no more luck with humidity than the rest of us. Thankfully, we’ve got plenty of water right here in East Texas (fresh water) or we can take a short drive to the beach, if we prefer salt water.

Water. I don’t care what flavor it is as long as it’s wet. It’s as much a part of summer as sunburns.

I’ve found several spots in this area I highly recommend, and they’re practically in our Lufkin backyard. Lake Sam Rayburn has numerous campgrounds and swimming areas. My personal favorite is at Shirley Creek: I launch my kayak there for fishing, and there’s a swim area with a beach for the kids — and the parents who just want to sit and pant while sipping a beverage.

There’s also Boykin Springs. I’ve taken my kids there several times, and it’s beautiful. The water seems cooler, and there’s room for everyone to splash around without trying to drown one another. I’ve caught fish there, too. (Sorry. If I’m near water, I’m fish huntin’.)

Of course, there’s always the beach fewer than three hours away. Crystal Beach has been my main destination every summer for more than 30 years. Recently, I’ve been able to share the experiences with my grandchildren. Set up a big canopy for shade and let the Gulf breeze cool us off. Splash in the waves. Paddle the ’yaks over the swells and out to where the fish are. Chase some crabs. Build some sand castles.

Relax and cool off. Works every time.

If one doesn’t feel like going out to a lake or the Gulf, I’ve found another solution. Several years ago, my wife got the idea of installing a temporary pool in our backyard. We’re still paying off weddings and other kid stuff, so we’re not ready to commit to the expenses involved with an in-ground version.

But she saw one of those large, inflatable pools online and suggested we try it.

Holy, moly. She’s a genius. We set that sucker up in a day — pump, filter and all — and kept it all summer. Got her a ladder and a princess float, and we floated around for hours in that thing. It’s big enough to hold five or six adults and eleventy billion grandkids. I even taught my grandson to swim in it. The pools aren’t that expensive, they’re low maintenance and they’re the perfect destination after a day spent sweating like heathens in church.

No, we’re not going to beat the heat, but we can do stuff to forget about it for a while.

Around whatever body of water you visit this month, you’re likely going to experience fireworks — and not just the kind I get from sliding my sweaty lips around my honey’s face. Fireworks shows from true professionals to leave us “oohing” and “ahhhing” the whole time.

Naturally, there are the amateurs, and that’s where the fireworks get dangerous. (I’m raising my hand here.) That I’m typing this with all 10 fingers instead of a couple of stubs qualifies as a miracle considering all the stupid stuff I’ve done with fireworks. Not lately. Age brings at least a little wisdom, I guess. I don’t even trust those seemingly harmless sparklers any more after our daughter Aimee accidentally stepped on a fallen tip while barefoot. She still has the scar.

I’ve been the idiot who launched bottle rockets from my hand. The moron who, along with his moron brothers, fired Roman candles at each other. One night, my brother bought more than $200 worth of fireworks to set off as we sat around our bonfire. Everything was fine until he kept sneaking up behind me and throwing firecrackers at my feet to make me jump. Fueled by more than one adult beverage, I grew tired of all of it and tossed the whole bag of explosives into the fire.

Whoo, boy. Big mistake. The ensuing scene looked like something out of a Hollywood war movie. The rockets’ red glare flew past our heads, one rocket passed through my other brother’s truck window and yet another nailed my older brother in the leg as he stepped from behind a tree where he’d been watering the foliage. He’d had a few beverages, too, so he didn’t even notice the flames on his person until we began singing, “I come from Alabama with a bonfire on my knee …”

They say the good Lord looks out for His idiots. I’m living proof.

Have a blast this summer. Hit the water. Set off some fireworks.

Just don’t forget how dangerous both can be. Stay hydrated. Stay cool.

And please stay away from idiots with bottle rockets in their hands.