If you’ve never been in a wet sauna nor done a tour of duty in a tropical jungle, you have nothing in your memory banks to make an adequate comparison to July and August in South Carolina. The word is humidity. Yes, it gets over one hundred degrees out in the Southwest, but it is bone dry. You sweat, the sweat evaporates the way God intended for it to and you feel a tiny bit cooler. In the South? Not so much. It is not at all unusual for the relative humidity to exceed the temperature such as 83 degrees with 85 percent humidity. Sure, you may not think that’s possible, but that’s summertime in the Southland.
Now, growing up in the country like I did meant playing outside in the dirt during those humid summer days. Let me clearly state for the record that I do not feel we were any morally better or more fit than today’s generation of video game jockeys, internet surfers, and couch potatoes. Trust me, if we’d have had the internet or video games and could have talked our Baby Boomer parents into it, we would have been sitting inside under the A/C killing aliens and scoping out Facebook just as fervently as today’s bunch. Unfortunately, instead of electronics, we had Tonka trucks. So, we played outside.
Now, if you play in the dirt you get dirt on you. If you play in the dirt in ungodly high humidity, you get MUD on you. That mud, over the course of the day, would tend to gravitate to the area of your neck between your chin (or chins as was the case with my chunky little self) and the top of your tee shirt. Gradually, the crease in your neck would get clogged with the sweat and humidity created muck until you had a line of dirt all the way around your neck.
Now, every line of dirt I ever saw was mostly thin. A really Pigpenesque kid might have a dirt line as wide as a fingernail, but not much more than that. In any event, some one, probably an adult, thought this ring of dirt resembled a dark version of the tight fitting “choker” pearl necklaces that elderly well-heeled Southern ladies liked to wear. Since the common folk (like us) would mistake the pearls for beads and we often called any woman older than our parents “Granny” the rings around our necks became Granny Beads. They were the mark of a day spent in raucous adventures and real physical play. Strange, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a child with granny beads around his neck, but then, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen many children playing with Tonka trucks in the red clay either.