The Old Paths: A super summer indeed

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News

Many years ago, I wrote a poem called, “August Is the Cruelest Month.” Yes, I beg to differ with writer T.S. Eliot who said that April was the cruelest month in his landmark work, “The Waste Land.”

For some reason, when the final days of July, shrouded in their dog-day heat and haze, slip almost unnoticed into August, I start to feel a certain panic try to creep in with the calendar change. I know that back-to-school sales will start any day and that moms with college-bound kids will start posting nostalgic things on Facebook. My empathy for them makes my eyes misty.

The threatening August-panic often stems from the fact I have been so busy all summer that I “forgot” to take the kids to Hanging Rock to swim…..or camping at the New River…..or picnicking at Moratock Park. Yep, same storyline this summer. (And no, I haven’t made homemade ice cream or had a cookout yet either.)

But I am breaking with my slightly-pessimistic, late-summer columns and instead focusing on what it is that makes Stokes County summers so terrific. For some of you, it’s getting OUT of Stokes County—trips to the beach, the mountains, out West. For those of us who save our vacations until later when popular spots are less crowded, we have to find things to do locally, especially for our kids.

And that is not hard to do in this amazing county.

For example, early this morning I took off to the Stokes County Extension Office—my little boy Malachi in the backseat. It was time for a bread-making workshop as part of the 4-H Summerfun program. When I picked him up three hours later, he was full of joy and new knowledge about the science of baking and grains. In just a few minutes, I was full of the delicious buttermilk biscuits and whole-wheat loaf bread he had baked!

(Needless to say, I am eagerly anticipating the samples he’ll bring home from his next 4-H workshop—cake decorating at the Artists Way Bakery.)

Do you know what a treasure we have in the Stokes County Extension Service, hidden away in their headquarters in downtown Danbury? These extension people are always on hand to help the good folks of Stokes. What they do for children through the 4-H program is priceless, especially with Summerfun. Malachi has already learned all about wool and how to dye it/make things with it; about soil and water conservation topics; how to take care of/show a lamb. This weekend he goes on an overnight “Zoo

Snooze” trip. Soon it’ll be canvas painting class at the Wooden Ladder Art Loft and a meatball-making class at Little Italy, both in King.

I meant to do more homeschooling this summer, but these cool educational 4-H classes for minimal fees (or free!) have done it for me! I am frankly shocked that more parents/caretakers do not take advantage of such worthwhile activities. (Maybe they don’t know somehow. Well, now they do for summer 2017!)

Later today, Malachi and I took off to the Walnut Cove Public Library. You know we couldn’t miss the final day of the annual Summer Reading program! My heart felt a bit heavy simply thinking of the fact that this splendid tradition was nearly over.

As you may know, I proudly wear the title of “Longest-Running Mom at Summer Reading.” This June at the annual hot dog kickoff, I began year 28 of taking my kids to this great program. I am not sure what I will do when Malachi outgrows it soon; I may borrow someone’s child and keep going.

Again, I am always astounded at how many parents/caretakers do not take advantage of such a gem as the Northwest Regional Library System’s Summer Reading program—two hour-long shows each Monday in Walnut Cove and Danbury (Wednesdays in King) with awesome entertainment and education. And that doesn’t even include the weekly summer programs for teens and adults! For five weeks, our Mondays have been full of storytelling, “Mad Science Olympics,” sing-along stories, wholesome movies and line dancing.

Before we went to the library today, I watched my lunchtime episode of my favorite old paths show, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” It was the one where Mayor Jake Slicker learns to read his first word after being secretly taught his letters by the town’s newspaper editor. When I saw Jake’s middle-aged face light up as he sounded out the word “sing,” tears flooded my eyes as I realized once more how precious it is to be able to read.

Just a few hours later, I heard Walnut Cove Librarian Christine Boles talk about how much local children have been reading this summer, keeping daily reading logs. Again, the importance and beauty of literacy was made very real to me. I wanted to shout to the world how important it is to get kids reading and involved in programs such as Summer Reading.

Maybe it’s not reading but science your child needs to improve in. Summertime provides an opportunity for that through Unlimited Success’ annual Jr. Blast science camps scattered throughout the county at elementary schools. Malachi once again attended for an entire week—learning all about science; being fed breakfast, lunch and a snack; doing

hands-on experiments; seeing that science can be fun—all for FREE! I urge you to think ahead for such opportunities next summer.

And lest I be remiss, allow me to mention the dozens of Vacation Bible Schools held all over this county while school is out. No, you don’t even have to leave our area to give your children a fun, educational and meaningful summer.

Okay, I have officially talked myself into feeling better about the fact that I have yet to take my kids swimming this summer. (I do believe we’ll squeeze that in before school starts!) For now, I stand amazed at the many marvelous things this county offers either for free or at low cost for our most precious resource—our children.

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at Her blog is at

By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News

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