August 2006 Linn County Leader Column – “Summer Breeze”

“Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine of my mind…”

Anyone remember that song? Seals and Crofts sang it back in 1972; that was the year of tremendous change in my life, as I went from being a California-raised dude to a transplanted 10-year old north Missourian. My seasonal weather intake went from smoggy summers to the hazy, blistering heat of the Midwest; from reading textbooks about tornadoes, to writing a novella about them with first-hand knowledge from the Severe Storms Forecast Center; from seeing snow in pictures to wading hip deep in the white stuff.

Quite the eye-opening experiences, indeed.

As the above-mentioned ditty rang through my head over and over again that first summer in the Green Hills area, I enjoyed much of my time outdoors exploring the numerous farm ponds that dotted the edge of town; I fished in Yellow Creek incessantly; I walked every inch around the old city reservoirs; and I just plain hung out in the backyard at home, lying on a freshly-washed blanket and watching marshmallow-puffed clouds drift lazily across the crisp blue sky. A warm wind wafted across my face as I took in the sights and sounds of a Midwestern summer: hundreds of katydids, cicadas, and crickets regaling me with their solstice symphony; baby birds cackling their hunger cries to mamma as she circled around for tasty morsels; the drone of passing cars as they sailed by on Highway 36…but behind those few sounds, there was an utter silence. A calm, peaceful quiet that trickled down into the very depths of my innermost being—almost like the smell of jasmine that Seals and Crofts sang about. It was so soothing; and from that moment I began to realize that there was a side of living other than the hustle and bustle of big city life.

I spent eight years growing up in Missouri, cherishing every summer that I was here—even the ones where you thought that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk! The baking heat could be somewhat overlooked when you were a kid; there was always spare energy available to sweat it off. We always had places to go and friends to see, and the summer was never long enough to fit in everything planned. And then those warm breezes of summer grew colder, and fall quickly set in—which meant it was time to go back to school and count off the nine months until the “jail” doors were open to set the captives free again.

As an adult, I think I sometimes overlook the simpler pleasures in life: a good chocolate cone from Tastee Treat, well-made s’mores constructed around a blazing campfire, tire-swinging contests over a deep cool fishing hole, or perhaps an all-night catfishing trip with my wife Jeannie (we both love to fish, which is an added plus). Those are just four of the many things I enjoy doing with family and friends; and all of them are usually associated with summer. Those are the types of activities that make lasting memories; ones that can be recalled with joy.

Even though I don’t like the heat, I truly enjoy this time of year. It’s a time for barbeques, camping, fishing, socializing, pool parties, low country boils…the list is endless, and the opportunities for having memorable times with your loved ones are unlimited as well.

So as this August melts away into September, and the first cool winds of fall begin to blow, take the time to really enjoy those “summer breezes.” Remember the things that made you grin and get excited as a kid—and do them again. Not just for a recollection of good times past, but for a reminder of good things to come. Not just for us, but for our kids; grandkids, and for the future generations “ridin’ on the highways that we built.” (That’s what John Mellencamp says, for what it’s worth).

Let’s help them enjoy life’s simpler pleasures, while there is still time.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

(After a summer spent at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, at the Omaha Zoo in Nebraska, and a family camping trip, Richard is looking forward to next year, when the family takes a summer excursion out West to Arizona. You can reach him to leave feedback at, or via his daily blog at


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