My song today is ‘That Summer’. This song was co-written and recorded by American country music artist, Garth Brooks. It was released in April 1993 as the fourth single from his album ‘The Chase’ and also appears on ‘The Hits’, ‘The Ultimate Hits’, ‘The Limited Series’ and ‘Double Live’. It reached Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Country Charts’ in 1993. The song was written by Garth Brooks, Pat Alger, and then-wife Sandy Mahl. The song was also Number 1 on the ‘US Billboard Hot Country Songs’.
On the 1996 television special, ‘The Garth Brook’s Story’, Garth talks about writing the song:
"That Summer' started out as a single guy and a married woman meeting at a party. The married woman being ignored by whom she was with, and they snuck off together. Allen Reynolds told me, "Man, I just don't find myself pulling for these characters. It doesn't seem innocently cool.
“I was thinking that he was right. Going home that night in the truck I started singing she has a need to feel the thunder. Sandy started helping me write the chorus and we got it done together. Probably one of the neat things that I love about ‘That Summer’ is that I think the song is very sexy."
The content of the song is about a teenage boy ‘far from home’ who goes to work for a ‘lonely widowed woman hellbent to make it on her own’. The woman lives on a wheat farm ("wheat fields as far as I could see"). The older woman slowly takes a liking to the young boy, to the point where one night she dons a dress "she hadn't worn in quite a while". It is then implied by the rest of the second verse that the teenage boy loses his virginity by having sex with a more than willing older woman. The third verse takes the now adult man back to the scene of his ‘coming of age’, having not seen the woman since long ago. Although the man has been with several other women by this point, it is always the widow woman’s face (his first love) whom he sees. Every time he passes a wheat field, he feels her hungry arms around him again.
This song resonates with me, in part at least. I was a young lad of 16 years, and both romantic and passionate to boot when I first met her. I was a presentable young man, handsome enough in the ‘good looks’ department, both bold and daring by nature, and with a level of self-confidence beyond my years.
Because of a serious road accident at the age of 11 years, my circumstances over the next ten years was to make me grow up infinitely sooner than I otherwise would have. The road accident which involved a wagon knocking me down, running over me and trapping me around the main drive shaft beneath the vehicle’s undercarriage almost killed me and did cripple me. I remained in the hospital for nine months, and underwent dozens of leg operations, and was discharged as a cripple with a medical diagnosis that I would never walk again. During this lengthy process of learning to walk again, I would remain away from school for over two years.
After a brief six months attendance at ‘Dewsbury Technical College’ having missed so much education away from schooling, I found it hard to settle back in. So I left school at the Christmas of 1957 and started work in a Cleckheaton mill at the age of 15 years. Over the years that followed, although I mixed with my own age/peer group, I was in many ways, more comfortable in the company of people much older than me. It mattered not whether they were men or women, I found myself needing the company of older adults as much as I needed the company of young men and young women of my own age.
I worked at the Cleckheaton Mill about 18 months before I started working at ‘Harrison Gardener’s Dyeworks’ nearer the estate where I lived in Hightown, Liversedge. Just before I had started work at the Hightown Dyeworks of ‘Harrison Gardeners’, I was offered some extra money to clean up the garden of this woman’s home in Cleckheaton. She was double my age and had just had her 33rd birthday. Unlike the woman in today’s song, the older woman who hired me to tidy up and tend to her garden was not widowed. She was neither separated nor divorced. She had never married and reportedly never wanted to be. She was and always had been of singe status and was an intelligent woman, highly educated, and working in an educational/teacher capacity with young children.
Without going into her full background circumstances, she was of independent mind and had she not been a heterosexual woman who simply needed a lot of physical contact with males, one might have wondered if she was gay. Thinking back now, she may even have been of bi-sexual status, although I would not have heard of such a status at that time in my life. One was either 'heterosexual' or 'homosexual' in my book (please note that the terms 'straight' and 'gay' at the time meant entirely different things. Before I had worked on her garden twice. she invited me inside her house for tea and sandwiches she had made partway through my work.
What I had initially been led to understand was a once fortnightly gardening task on either a Saturday or Sunday afternoon turned out to last the entire summer months of 1959 (I did not have my 17th birthday until November 1959).
As the month of June 1959 progressed, every week I did my gardening chores for the nice lady (who had made it quite clear to me by now that she liked living on her own), I could sense that our relationship was gradually changing. While I had not initially viewed our friendship as being any more than one of female employer and hired help with the garden, as the weeks progressed and the afternoon tea breaks became longer, our conversations became more personal. I could sense a change brewing and I began to have teenage expectations of what could happen were I to allow what will be ‘to be’?
There is nothing more flattering, sexually stimulating, and exciting to a 16-going-on-17-year-old teenager than to know that you have physically attracted the thoughts and physical attention of a much older woman who is experienced in the ways of the world. The woman in question was extremely attractive, and she always dressed in highly fashionable clothes. She was at home in anything she wore, and it did not seem to matter if she dressed more formal or totally informal. Whether she wore a summer dress or a skirt and blouse or merely donned a pair of old jeans, all clothing items hung naturally on her slender bone frame and complimented her feminine body shape, making her look highly desirable to male eyes.
By week six into our gardening arrangement, our conversations had undergone subtle nuances that come with a change in the relationship agenda from strictly professional to more personal. The first sign of changing times I noticed was in the way she looked at me whenever asking me some innocuous question. It was evident to both of us that we knew what was starting to happen, and what would definitely happen if a halt wasn’t called. If things continued unabated, the only question was when? As one line in the song I sing today says when the young narrator realises that the relationship is becoming more intimate, “both needing something from each other, not knowing yet what that might be.” That sentiment prevailed to me as much as the woman in question.
I was at that stage of my life where I was more than willing to do whatever came naturally in such circumstances. She had assessed me as being a young man who could be trusted not to kiss and tell. I had told the woman during previous conversations that I intended to go to Canada and America when I was 21 years old and had no intention of forming any serious relationships with anyone beforehand which involved the investment of emotional commitment on my part. These plans of mine suited her entirely, and there was no need of any further conversation between us. An unspoken lover’s pact had been struck between us that involved 'no emotional commitment' now and 'no continued physical involvement' after the summer months had come to an end. Knowing that our sexual relationship was on a strictly once-weekly part-time basis made our understanding crystal clear.
The coupling between us occurred about ten times and remains highly memorable to me, being the least experienced lover of the two of us, and who was still learning 'on the job' so to speak as I made my way in the adult world. Soon after, around the start of autumn I stopped my weekend visits, and while we did pass each other in Cleckheaton over the next couple of years and said hello to each other, our brief association was never rekindled, and the flame of my passion was ignited elsewhere, as no doubt was hers. I had reached my late teens and I had no doubt that there would be ‘other summers’ over the years ahead before I got married and settled down to domesticity and started raising a family.
I did hear through the grapevine that she had employed a new part-time gardener by that autumn who (whether he knew it or not at the point of accepting the post), would be given extra gardening duties and an unexpected Christmas bonus if he was still around in December and played his cards right.
Enjoy your summer months everybody, especially if the present lockdown position we are experiencing allows you to get out into the garden. In the event of you being a single woman out there in need of a good gardener, I am sure you will be able to find one easily enough in the advertisement column of your local newspaper. But beware, the going rate changes from area to area and depends upon the initial understanding you arrive at.
Love and peace Bill xxx