Old-fashioned picnics serve up lasting memories
by Juanita Hughes
Columnist
October 17, 2012 03:11 AM | 914 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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Seems like we don’t do picnics anymore, real picnics. We might cook out on the patio or go to a park where there are nice tables and benches, water fountains, restrooms and electricity.

An old-fashioned picnic is a thing of the past, old-fashioned, for sure.

We wouldn’t think today of packing a few necessary items — sandwiches, drinks, chips, a tablecloth, and a can of bug spray — and finding a spot on the river bank to sit Indian-style and watch for ants and bears, whiling away a couple of hours where the only noises are our voices and the water rippling nearby.

Looks great in the movies, but not so great in reality.

The annual Cherokee County Historical Society picnic is a great example. There were over 100 folks at the recent event hosted by Lyn Chattin who had gone all out to prepare for our visit.

It was a perfect “modern” picnic, embellished with antique cars and farm implements, but in pleasant comfort.

I saw not a single ant, nor one yellow jacket. There were no bears. We had to bring only one dish, and we didn’t have to carry our trash home with us.

When we left, we were no more rumpled than when we came. “Roughing it” meant standing in line, and the only pests to be found were those people who got to the dessert table first.

The memories we took home with us did not include wasp stings and chigger bites. It was a great picnic.

There seems to have been a phenomenon about insects this summer just past. I’m more-or-less an indoor person, but I’m outside enough to realize the scarcity of those bugs that were around when I was growing up.

We went barefoot from May 1 until frost. Clover was everywhere and we spent hours making necklaces from the clover blossoms and stems. But for every necklace, there was at least one honeybee sting, usually on the bottom of someone’s foot.

This meant a trip inside the house for Mama or Grandma (both of whom were snuff-dippers) to quickly dab a finger full of snuff juice on the sting. And it worked.

Then there were the June bugs. I’m not sure I would recognize one if I saw it today. There was a knack to tying a string of sewing thread around the June bugs’ brittle little legs, and I still remember how proud I was to be able to do that instead of having to watch and wait for Mama to do it for me.

The most fun was tying one to each end of the string and watching them loop-de-loop ‘ round and ‘round. What fun today’s kids are missing.

And whatever happened to the doodle-bugs in the ground. We would spend endless afternoons enticing them to come out of their holes in the ground, but to no avail. I never saw one, but the anticipation and excitement of the hunt was enough to keep us occupied and busy for hours.

And where are the yellow jackets? Did they actually freeze last winter? And where are the earthworms?

It’s enough to keep an amateur fisherman indoors when he can’t find a wiggler in the back yard. They seem to have been replaced with a zillion of those pests that we call no-see-ums. They might be invisible, but they pack a wallop and leave us in misery.

At least there are still butterflies. But are children still collecting them? Remember that horrifying method of anesthetizing them with alcohol, then sticking a straight pin through to attach them to a backboard or piece of cotton or felt? But, oh, how pretty they were.

In the Oct. 15 “Maxine” calendar, she says, “Ah Fall, when the bugs go away to make room for the real pests ... relatives.”

Methinks perhaps the tea party (and I’m NOT talking about a political debutante ball) has displaced the picnic in its attraction.

While the Teddy Bears Picnic might have been outdoors, its counterpart, Tea with Alice in Wonderland or Snow White, somehow is more appealing.

The idea of a dainty, occasional indoor ladybug invading a tea party, is more enticing to today’s generation than scrambling around in the grass — or dust — or mud — to get away from the ant invaders, not to mention the wasps and spiders.

Leave the “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails” to the guys. I’ll take the “sugar and spice and everything nice” and hold out a hope that one day, perhaps next summer, I can take five little great-granddaughters on a real picnic, one with ants and a few harmless dirt-daubers, and homemade cookies and lemonade and PB&J sandwiches.

We may go home with chigger bites, but we’ll have some very special memories.

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.

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