Town Crier: Southern hours (part 1)

Back in the medieval days, there was a popular type of book many people had called a "Book of Hours." This was a selection of readings from the Bible, prayers and lessons that you could turn to over the course of the day. It was set up as "hours" because this was based on the daily devotional rituals of monks and nuns. Back then there wasn't a lot of light after the sun went down so the hours this book focused on were eight hours of the day.

These days, we seem to be on the clock around the clock. When the sun goes down we're often just starting a second day's worth of activities. With electric lights and 24-hour businesses there's no time that's completely down time. The carpet mills run 24 hours with multiple shifts when business is good. There's always someone on the highway driving so the quickie marts are oasis night spots. The shopping channels on TV never stop pitching and if you're an insomniac, you never have to be a bored insomniac.

In our daily lives we have many "by the hour" events. We have "lunch hour," "quitting time," TV "prime time" and "happy hour." We might live "one day at a time" but we also get through the day "one hour at a time." With that in mind, I've tried to come up with a sensible hourly schedule that gets you through all 24 hours of the day. If the old cuckoo bird whistles at you and you're at a loss for what to do, you can refer to this handy column and get right back on schedule.

6 a.m.

• Farm Report Hour: Used to be there was so much agriculture around that the farmers would already be up at this hour and have the farm report on either the radio or TV. There's a cable channel called RFD that still does farm reports and actually does them several times a day as the "R" in RFD stands for "rural." Even if you're not a farmer I think starting your day off with a relaxing report about soybean prices and pork belly futures might be better than watching those endlessly cheery morning shows and definitely better than the news.

7 a.m.

• Second Cup Hour: Whether you're just getting to work or about to run out the door on your way to fight traffic, this is when a lot of people are getting that second cup of coffee. Although not grown in these environs, coffee is definitely part of a Southern morning. Coffee was so popular but so hard to get during the Civil War that people made coffee from chicory and even ersatz coffees by boiling nuts and bark. And Southerners traditionally like their coffee hot, hot, hot. Even on summer mornings, the hot coffee will open your pores and help cool you off (once that first flash of heat passes through you). I've known folks that like their coffee so hot that they have to spill the first sip or two out of their cup and into their saucer, then give it a couple of cooling puffs so they can get that magic elixir that helps get the day going.

8 a.m.

• School Hour: Time to beat that second bell and be in our seat in homeroom. We all start out at school and so it pretty much sets us up for the rest of our lives for at least a perceived schedule of how things ought to be. There's nothing inherently wrong with Mondays, but that is the day we start back at school each week. There's still something magic about Friday afternoons around 3 o'clock as far as I'm concerned, and that's because it's about when school let out. There's one good surprise for that first hour of the school day and that's if you've just grabbed your seat and a substitute teacher walks in! If you've graduated, take a look at the newspaper and see if you can learn one new thing today.

9 a.m.

• Work Hour: Whether you're in a bank, in school or creeling at the carpet mill, this is a time of day where everybody is actually busy. I'm not saying it's the best hour of the day, but I bet it's the most productive.

10 a.m.

• Vegetable Hour: Anyone growing up with vegetable gardens knows to do the hard work -- hoeing and picking -- in the cool of the morning. That means at about 10 my grandmother would sit me down and we'd break beans, wash tomatoes or cut okra. Winter is when she'd go to the cellar and get canned jars of veggies to start cooking for the meal that day. If you're in an office it might be a good time to drink a V8.

11 a.m.

• Errand Hour: At about 11 workers are thinking toward lunch and so many folks plan to head out about now to get some errands done. If they finish them early (and "magically" or "like clockwork, take your pick ... they usually do) they get the bonus of getting a lunch hour that's more than 60 minutes. Saturdays were when one of my parents would make a grocery run to the Green Spot. If it was my dad we might go by Burger Chef for lunch. On 11 most days, my grandmother would head to visit one of the neighbor ladies; for her an important errand.

12 p.m.

• Dinner Hour: A lot of times we call the third meal of the day dinner instead of supper but one definition of "dinner" is that it's the largest meal of the day. When folks worked the fields or were at a job in town close enough to walk home at noon to eat, this would be the biggest meal of the day. When my dad was a kid back in the '30s and '40s, my grandmother would bake more than 60 biscuits for breakfast. Supper in the evening was potato soup and cornbread. But lunchtime was a hearty meal with some type of meat, fried chicken or a roast, vegetables, and with luck, maybe a cobbler for dessert. This meal was to revitalize you for the afternoon's work ... although many times a meal like that will lead to yawns and dozing off. Well, what are you going to do? A person has to eat.

1 p.m.

• Outside Chore Hour: By this time in the day my grandmother would have all the washing done and now it was time to take it outside and hang it on the clothesline to dry. And after a morning of tinkering, my grandfather would head out on the tractor to mow the yard. I had the chore of mowing the yard on Saturday mornings so dad would come outside at about 1 to help me rake up and wheelbarrow off the clippings. We had to hurry because there might be a Georgia Bulldogs football game on the radio starting at 2. It's not the coolest part of the day but unless it's a scorcher it's not a bad time of day to get some stuff done outside. We Southerners like our curb appeal.

2 p.m.

• Nap Hour: If you go further south of here you get to actually have a siesta in the afternoon. I don't see why we don't make it an official thing as well. If the yard is done, how great is it to find that hammock and sack out for a bit? If that Georgia game is on the radio or the Atlanta Braves are playing a doubleheader, is that any reason not to doze off in the easy chair? And even in the winter, there's something about finding that one sunny spot on the sofa and getting a little afternoon hibernation in for good measure. My grandmother would take me into the bedroom as a kid and she would have us lay down for a nap. Her's lasted no more than 20 minutes -- what they call a power nap now -- but back then it was her catching 20 winks. I, on the other hand, I would conk out. Playing was hard work.

3 p.m.

• School's Out Hour: There's always a certain amount of excitement this time of day. Even if you don't go to school anymore you know the cars have been out starting at about 2:30 to head toward school to pick up the kids. And if you live near a high school you know there's going to be a rush hour that's truly a "rush" as the kids race out of there. With the police helping to direct traffic there's usually not many to hand out tickets to the kids speeding off to afternoon activities. With the warm weather seasons so long around here there are plenty of car windows open and stereos blasting as the kids all feel like a felon given a governor's pardon … at least until the next morning. The young kids are being shuttled to their dance classes, sports teams and occasionally the dentist. I contend that even if you're in an office somewhere there's a little charge of electricity in the air around here when it comes time for school to let out.

Next week: The rest of the day (and night)!

Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.

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