Mastering the Muggies

It may be sweaty, but at least it isn't winter

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

We love New Hampshire summers, short as they are compared to places like Hawaii, Mexico and Connecticut. The joke is, “We usually spend the summer camping. Too bad it rained that weekend.”

Our summers are long compared to places like Siberia, the South Pole and Maine, but never long enough. Better grab it by the flip-flops while it lasts. During a good summer, I bag 10-plus sunny days at camp, on or in the water. During a less-good summer, every stinkin’ time I drive up, the clouds come, temperature drops, and I end up playing cards, eating chips-n-dips and drinking cocoa, while the rain pounds the roof. Might’s well be April. Or October.

We love summer and look forward to it with the caveat “I’m complaining about the cold now, but I’ll be complaining about the heat come July.” Except it’s not generally the heat we hate. It’s the muggies. In March, it’s the muddies, in May, the buggies, and in summer, the muggies. With the muddies, drive the high ground. With the buggies, wear a net and douse yourself with bug spray. But what to do about the muggies, when the humidity climbs higher than the temperature, and you devolve into a stagnant pool of your own sweat?

When it’s cold, you layer up. But when the muggies set in, there’s only so many layers you can peel down. Take a shower, but soon as you step out, you’re sweating. Dive into the lake, but soon as you emerge, you’re sweating. Head to the ocean, plunk your chair in the waves and move with the tide. Sooner or later, you’ve got to go home — sandy, salty and sweating again. It’s dripping off your nose, dripping into your eyes, oozing from every pit.

Some hunker down by an air conditioner. But true Yankees eschew air conditioners. Heck, you only need one a few days a year, hardly worth the investment. At my house, when the muggies linger, we sleep in the screen house. We pile ice cubes on a cookie sheet and run a fan behind it. At my house, when the muggies linger, knock first or you might find us peeled down further than you’re used to.

But even a muggy summer beats no summer at all, like in 1816, also known as “The Year Without a Summer” and “Eighteen Hundred and Froze-to-Death.” Snow in June was followed by frosts in July and August. Gardens had barely sprouted when frost hit ’em where it hurt, smack in the chlorophyll. A summer that cold doesn’t even qualify. Nor do you want one that’s root-rot wet or dust-bowl dry. My friend Chuck said the drought a few summers back did his potatoes no good at all.

Fella says, “Your potato crop turn out?”

“No,” Chuck says, “Had to dig ’em.” He elaborates: “Some were the size of golf balls. Some the size of marbles. And then there were the little ones.” At Hannaford, they call small potatoes “gourmet.” Used to call them pig feed.

We love our New Hampshire summers for lots of reasons, even when it’s cold or muggy, even when rains too much for the beach or too little for the potatoes. Mainly we love summer because it ain’t winter.

Writer Rebecca Rule is the author of a number of books for adults and children. Her latest is “Sixty Years of Cuttin’ the Cheese: Joel Sherborne and Calef’s Famous Country Store.”

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