Beware of the sun’s rays
By Clif Knight
Exposure to extreme heat and the sun’s ultraviolet rays was a practice followed by farm workers for good reason when I was a boy many years ago.
I was reminded of how easy it is for the sun to cause damage to the body’s skin recently while working outside bareheaded for most of the day. The sun’s rays blistered the top of my head where the loss of hair has left a bare spot.
I remember seeing men, women and girls working in the fields wearing broad-brimmed straw hats and hand-sewn bonnets. The hats served the dual purpose of shading their skin from the sun and fanning their faces during an occasional rest break.
Boys marched to a different tune, however, much to the displeasure of their parents. My brothers and me limited our summer dress to a pair of cut-off blue jeans and soaked up the sun without fear of the consequences. The only exceptions were for blackberry picking and going to church.
“You boys need to wear a hat on your heads and a shirt on your backs,” our mother would say. Our older sister added,” If you don’t, you’ll be sorry someday.”
We’d answer, “It’s too hot to wear a hat and a shirt” and rush out of the house bareheaded, barebacked and barefooted.
Hats were also the custom order of the day for church and social settings as the embodiment of proper dress. Women adorned themselves with a variety of headpieces complete with ribbon and other decorations and held in place by gemstone hatpins. Men opted for more modest felt hats to top off their “Sunday best.” When not in use, they were placed in hatboxes and stored in top shelves of closets.
It turned out that both our mother and big sister were right on target in their efforts to get us boys to wear something on our heads and backs to protect ourselves. My mother never had to visit a dermatologist for skin treatment when she died in her early 90s and my older sister has youthful-looking skin at age 89.
Unfortunately, my luck ran out several years ago year when my family doctor found a skin cancer on my back and removed it surgically. I was referred to a dermatologist who removed another skin cancer from the same area a couple of years later. I was fortunate to get help when the cancers were operable.
The unpopularity of sun hats is something I experienced earlier this year when my old, seldom-used straw hat became tattered and torn and I began searching for a replacement. Much to my surprise, an inexpensive, well-made straw hat is hard to find in stores nowadays. I finally settled on a floppy fisherman’s hat. It’s very different from the straw hats of long ago but it’ll come in handy on the hot summer days of June, July and August.