Nighttime serenade of sounds

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The dew lies heavy on a cool, late summer night, slightly bending green blades of grass.

Meanwhile, the darkened environment becomes a playground for nocturnal creatures. What appears to be a small army of crickets are chirping in unison as they rub their wings together. Summer cicadas (aka “June Bugs”) cling to tree branches as they sing out into the night by vibrating special membranes in their winged bodies.

Off in the distance, you may hear the call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will or catch the distinctive sound of a Barn Owl.

A clap of thunder from a passing storm may briefly interrupt the summer serenade of these birds and insects. And the accompanying rain brings out another sound – frogs.

These sounds are the same today as they were when I was a child.

Growing up in a home without the benefit of an air conditioner, we rather used the services of a “whole house” fan, which possessed a unique sound of its own – the steady, low-pitched hum of its motor. At night we would slightly raise the windows in our individual rooms, creating a draft as the fan circulated the cool air throughout the house. The sheer curtains would ripple in that gentle breeze as your eyes grew heavy and your body drifted off into a deep sleep.

There were no worries back then of a stranger entering your peaceful domain. Heck, we didn’t even lock our doors, day or night. There were no “anti-anything” groups to deal with back in the day. About the only unique thing I can remember about the community I was raised in was one family that adhered to Republican values. Outside of their political beliefs, they were no different in any other way.

In the late summer and into mid fall, there was another sound added to the mix. This one was man-made.

When harvest season rolls around and you are located near a corn or peanut storage facility, the sounds of those crops being dried by huge fans are the norm at night. Again, with your bedroom window open, the hum of those powerful motors coupled with the tell-tale roar of the spinning blades served as a sleep supplement.

These simple-minded thoughts of yesteryear flooded my memory last week. Upon arriving home just as the sun was slowly sinking in the western horizon, I noted the absence of a man-made barrier around my home since the spring of this year.

Danny Revelle, who leases my farmland, and his son, Shane – aka the “Mayor of Pinetops” – had harvested those tall stalks of corn. The eastern edge of my lawn was littered with light brown husks along with kernel-less ears of corn, the majority chopped in half during the harvesting process. Not to worry….that’s expected and accepted when you live on a farm. A little muscle power and a rake will send those items back among their brethren in the field.

The corn harvest means the drying process will commence. While the technology of that process has changed over the years, it’s still accomplished with fast-moving air, generated by a powerful fan, circulating through the millions of corn kernels.

Sure enough, late last week while on my back porch absorbing the sounds of nighttime nature, the loud hum of that drying process was taking place less an a quarter-mile away.

It threw me back in time, wishing to slightly raise the windows of my home and drifting off to a night of deep sleep while being serenaded by sounds of rural, northeastern North Carolina.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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