Turn on those oscillating sprinklers

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The recent heat wave brought back memories of methods I used to keep cool during the summer days of my boyhood in the South.
The easiest way to cool off was with a garden hose, but one had to remember to let the water run for a minute or two before hosing down or run the risk of being scalded by hot water. You see, after lying in the sun for hours, the hose would become hot. After turning on the water, the first several cubic feet of water traveling through the hose would absorb that heat and, well, you know the rest.
The advantage of a garden house is it went wherever you went, up to a point. A 30-foot long garden hose goes no farther than 30 feet from the faucet, spigot or whatever one calls the thing where the hose is attached. By manipulating one’s thumb, one could direct the stream of water and control its pressure when spraying little sisters, cousins and any wayward adult careless enough to get within range of said hose.
Attach a nozzle to the hose and it’s range and pressure become more effective if the steady-stream option was chosen. To get that fine mist that felt so good, one chose the fine-spray options, good for toddlers, flowers and herbs.
One of my favorite methods of cooling off was (still is) an oscillating sprinkler. You know, the sprinkler that had a curved piece (usually metal, but it could be plastic) that resembled a bow and had about 12 holes in it from which water sprayed. The oscillating sprinkler would, well, oscillate over an area, creating rain-like distribution of water. I would stand in a spot and let the water fall on me. I would run and jump over the sprinkler time and time again. I would try to get as close to the oscillating spray without getting one drop of water on me. If the U.S. Armed Forces want to teach their personnel how to dodge enemy fire, a few days negotiating an oscillating sprinkler would do the trick.
If I had a dollar (OK, 10 dollars) for every time I’ve run through an oscillating sprinkler, I’d be retired, living at Emerald Isle and keeping cool in the summer by chasing sharks through the water. By sharks, I mean 18-inch sand sharks. There’s something about an oscillating sprinkler (perhaps because its spray closely resembles a soft rain) that appeals to my inner boy.
The only competition an oscillating sprinkler faces, in my opinion, comes from a Slip ’N Slide. Of course, I was smart enough in my boyhood days to locate an oscillating sprinkler at the end of a Slip ’N Slide. By doing so, I could use the oscillating sprinkler to wash off the grass clippings from that morning’s lawn mowing. In my day, that’s what awaited us at the end of the Slip ’N Slide, not a pool like newer versions of Slip ’N Slides have.
So, if you see a man running through oscillating sprinklers in Washington and there’s no doubt he’s more than 15 years old, it’s likely me. If you want to join me, I’ll be happy for the company.
Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. For those of you with waterbeds, he suggests inserting ice cubes in them.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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