As a child, I always called them lightning bugs, never fireflies but I suppose they are one and the same. I’ve noticed the lightning bugs are out in the evenings just before dusk, one of many sure signs that summer is underway.

As a child, I always called them lightning bugs, never fireflies but I suppose they are one and the same. I’ve noticed the lightning bugs are out in the evenings just before dusk, one of many sure signs that summer is underway.
Catching lightning bugs was a favorite summer pursuit of mine and those I managed to capture were placed in a clean jar with a few holes poked in the lid to provide air. We admired the way they glowed inside the jar, but we usually released them back into the night once we’d had our fun.
Fireflies weren’t the only insects that we chased as children. In the long, somnolent afternoons we also caught grasshoppers and sometimes, also in the twilight time of day, we would pick up fat nightcrawlers after they crawled onto the still warm sidewalk that led to the front porch. Those we placed into a coffee can with some dirt because they made excellent fishing bait, gathered for free.
Although I’ve always found dragonflies to be lovely, I don’t remember chasing those at home but on the occasions when we packed up to go to a lake to fish, often with my aunt, uncle, and their kids in tow, dragonflies emerged around dusk and I pursued those too. I think, however, capturing butterflies proved more difficult and often I preferred to just watch them light, admiring their graceful flight and delicate wings.  I never bothered to catch moths although they gathered around any light source as dark fell. An old Ozark superstition says that moths are the spirits of grandparents, so I never minded the moths being around and still don’t.
Another evening entertainment, one best played as the sun slid down the western sky, was an old-fashioned favorite called Moonlight, Starlight.  It’s a version of the classic hide and go seek game but in reverse. Instead of one child being “it” and searching for the others, one kid would hide, designated as the ghost and everyone else would search for the hidden ghost. We chanted, “Moonlight, starlight, hope to see the ghost tonight” as we took slow steps through the fading summer light. Shadows seemed darker and taller.  The longer we searched, the more we grew anxious as we waited for the ghost to pounce from an unknown spot. The more evening faded into night, the better for the suspense of the game. When the ghost popped out, the chase began as he or she pursued us as we ran shrieking back to the front porch or other safe spot. Whoever was caught by the ghost became the next one to hide.
Although I enjoyed hide and go seek, Moonlight Starlight was always more exciting. Once night had fallen, then it was time to gaze upward at the moon and stars.
I remember the first moon landing and watched it on television at my aunt’s insistence when that first lunar step was taken. But I also remember that before man walked on the moon, there was more mystery and magic about it.  Adults told kids that the moon was made of green cheese and we half-believed it. There was a man in the moon and sometimes, if we stared upward at the craggy lunar surface, we swore we could make out his face.  A poem from one of our Childcraft volumes called the moon “the north wind’s cookie” to explain the phases of the moon as it waxed and waned.
My Pop had served in the Navy and sometimes we would stand on the front porch of my grandparents’ home on North Tenth Street in St. Joe and he would point out some of the stars. Despite the streetlights, we could make out the Big Dipper and the Evening Star or Venus among others. When storms rolled in from the west, from Kansas, their porch also provided a vantage point to view the weather as it arrived.
Porch sitting was another pastime and after the games were finished, I enjoyed sitting on the steps. I listened to the everyday talk and to the stories of the past.
I still enjoy sitting out on the porch and watching the lightning bugs emerge. I like the feel of the wind brushing against my face after the heat of the day and the way the breeze whispers through the trees.
Summer is here and brings back memories of many other summers, more than one column could ever contain.

    
Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer and writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.