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HammockA hanging, easily swung cot or lounge of canvas or netting suspended between two trees or other supports. From the Spanish word hamaca. — ¬†American Heritage Dictionary

The decline of the hammock in our society is similar to the abandonment of the front porch, for those homes that still have them. The porch saw its use dwindle with the advent of air conditioning and television, and in later years the “deck” replaced the porch and became a common part of not only new construction but add-ons to existing homes.

And yet, the hammock has much to recommend it. For adults — at least those over the age of 50 — it conjures up memories of the halcyon days of youth, when lying in a hammock and gazing at a South Dakota sky brought a tranquility as comforting as a grandmother’s kiss.

Nor was the practicality of the hammock lost on sailors, who used them for sleeping. They were a space-saver, and had the added benefit of providing a level, if airborne, suspension during windy seas.

Unlike many creature comforts of today, the hammock was easy to install, inexpensive as an old piece of canvas, and portable as the local newspaper. Generally hung between two trees, soas to provide shade on a warm summer day, it could be moved behind the garage or anywhere a couple of hooks were mounted.

Hammocks ranged from common to fancy, which sported multi-colored fabric on a metal framework. Though perhaps more pleasing to some eyes, it would not allow the swinging motion provided by a breeze or a mischievous playmate.

Hammocks also took utility into account. Those made of rope or netting allowed total

ventilation during hot days. The old canvas hammock that hung between two cottonwood trees on our family farm was the perfect place to read a book, daydream, or hide from chores. And, it provided one other unique advantage. When those summer squalls would arrive, the canvas quickly could suffice as a cocoon, blocking the elements but leaving the occupant free to enjoy the excitement of the storm.

After the mid-afternoon nap, the best use of the hammock is a place to catch up on summer reading. Popular now is “Go Set a Watchman,” Harper Lee’s second novel. It was a perfect Father’s Day gift, but those high 90-degree days forced me to retreat indoors. Now, however, with cooler temperatures this week, I’m heading back outside, book in hand, to the hammock, of course.

Aug. 5, 2015