Washington column for July 11

Are ‘dog days’ for real?

Half the year has gone by in the blink of an eye! Here it is July already, and we just celebrated Independence Day. Our country has so much to be thankful for, and it all started with our independence. As Lee Greenwood so beautifully sang, “I thank my lucky stars to be living here today, ’cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away.”

In spite of the heatwave, I hope that everyone had a nice and safe Independence Day with family and friends.

The dog days of summer are just around the corner for us — those summer days that were so devastatingly hot that even dogs would lie around panting from the heat.

I can remember being on the farm out playing, climbing over barbed wire fences, and my mother would say be careful not to get cut or scratched. I would ask her why, and she would remind me that we were in the dog days of summer, when injuries would take longer to heal. I really thought it was because of the dog days, but as the years passed I realized it was a myth.

Many people today use the phrase to mean something similar — but originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, dog days refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens.

To the Greeks and Romans, “dog days” occurred around the time when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.

“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s referring to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star as being associated with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg, author of Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky. “All throughout Greek and Roman literature, you found these things.”

The phrase “dog days” was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on new meanings.

“Now people come up with other explanations for why they’re called the ‘dog days’ of summer, [like] this is when dogs can go crazy,” said Anne Curzan, an English professor at the University of Michigan.

“This is a very human tendency,” she said. When we don’t know the origin of a phrase, we come up with a plausible explanation.

“The meaning has been lost,” said Holberg, “but the phrase has lived on.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the dog days: beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.

Whittler from Amissville

Henry and Ruth Lillard took a woodworking class at Rappahannock County High School. This picture is from 1969. The Rappahannock Historical Society have an assortment of wonderful wood carvings done by these folks including a weather vane and several small animals, a flask. Courtesy photo by Cheryl Taylor

A man named Henry Lillard of Amissville, known as the Amissville whittler, would carve things with a pocket knife.

Recently, granddaughter Cheryl Taylor donated some wonderful carvings by her grandfather to the Rappahannock Historical Society so people could stop in to see his amazing work. Henry didn’t use any fancy tools, only a barlow pocket knife that he had found.

I talked to Cheryl on Tuesday afternoon. She said her grandfather, grandmother, and mother were all very talented.

Cheryl said back in the late 60’s to the early 70’s there was a class given out at the Rappahannock County High School called Adult Education that her three forebearers took. Her grandfather made beautiful picture frames along with other things.

Henry passed away in the early 80’s. Feel free to stop by the Historical Society and see the items he carved by a knife. Located on Gay Street, they are open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also the Rappahannock Historical Society has its new colored decal on sale for $2 each. Stop in and buy one.

Birthday wishes

Birthday wishes to Ginger Miller, who will be opening presents on Saturday, July 13. And also to her husband, Roger, who blows out his candles the following Saturday, July 20. Best wishes to you both.

Book Barn news

The Book Barn is overflowing with interesting books for your summer reading! Come by and check out the new arrivals that include classics by Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austin, and Mark Twain. Antique books are available at great prices.

Children’s books, cookbooks, books on hobbies, sports, animals, humor, trains, Civil War and references are all waiting to be taken to a good home.

The Book Barn is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m..Book Barn sales go directly to the Rappahannock County Library.

Library news

Speaking of the Rappahannock County Library, it is having an exciting program July 13 at 12:30 on reptiles. The program introduces reptiles from all over the world. You can stay after the show to interact with the reptiles. This is a free program for anyone.

Keep in mind that the library has Preschool Story Time on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. in the Jamieson Room. This is free as well.

For more information on these events, call the Rappahannock County Library, at 540-675-3780.

Stay cool and have a wonderful week!

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