The Wails of August
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

August is a strange month, different in distinctive ways from its 11 brethren. Itís likely the most honest and up-front of the 12 packages of days that we humans use to measure our planetís journey around the sun. August is pure, concentrated, in-your-face SUMMER. Thereís almost never a tinge of coolness to temper the brutally hot days, thereís usually little rain at all, and that which does come often splatters down in violent machine-gun sprays onto the hot, dusty land.

August is also the only month that I could find that has no major holidays. None. Not a one. Zippo. Every other month has a major holiday (yes, Fatherís Day in June is a major holiday, though it perhaps rightly takes a back seat in sequence and sentiment to Motherís Day in May). Unlike any other month, August is simple, straightforward, unadorned and unpretentious. It looks you in the eye and gives you a very firm, very warm handshake, though it doesnít say much.

And yet, a gentle scratch beneath the surface reveals a depth you might not have realized. August is not all wails and woes related to heat and humidity. By day, August provides ripening apples and corn, squash and beans, tomatoes and watermelons, peaches and blackberries. By night, August serves up one of the great natural fireworks shows of the celestial year, the Perseid meteor showers that have graced the nighttime sky and excited the human imagination for millennia.

Its lack of formal celebrations and its languid pace actually make August a perfect time to pause and appreciate the many blessings we as Americans and Virginians enjoy. Itís a fitting time to pause from your labors and to travel with your family. Itís summer at its most intense. Yet its very intensity reminds us that just ahead are shorter days. The light will soon grow gauzy, and the air will grow cooler as the leaves grow warmer, tinged in tones of orange and yellow and red.

August also kicks off the ďhigh seasonĒ for cooperative annual meetings across Virginia, as nine of Virginiaís 13 local electric cooperatives hold their meeting in August or September. The other four co-ops hold theirs just a bit earlier, in June or July. Despite the heat, thousands of local cooperative member-owners like you gather in high schools and open-air pavilions and auditoriums from Cumberland Gap to the Eastern Shore. At these annual exercises in the power of democracy and the pleasure of community, members elect other members to represent them on the board of directors, and make any needed changes to cooperative bylaws and policies.

Summer seems an appropriate time for cooperative annual meetings, inasmuch as many of the most grueling farm chores that electricity lifted off the shoulders of rural people were done in the heat of late spring and summer. And itís tempting on a scorching summer day to ponder an unanswerable question: If rural people across Virginia and across the country in the 1930s and í40s had not joined together and formed cooperatives to provide themselves with power, would there still be rural areas today without electric service?

Thankfully, itís a moot point. The foundation built by those courageous men and women two generations ago was made of solid stuff, and remains strong and firm today. Tired of waiting for others to serve them, they decided to work together and serve themselves. Their legacy endures, in reliable service from local people. In providing this service at cost. In operating in a democratic fashion. And in having a rock-solid commitment to the community for the long term.

The cooperative promise, in August and always, boils down to this: As long as our members need us, and as long as theyíre willing to work together to support what is truly their business, weíll continue to exist, to grow, and to prosper.



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