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Latham: Looking for a quiet night? Don’t come to East Texas

City people — I used be one myself 40 years ago, coming from Dallas-Fort Worth — often wish for the “peace” they believe can be found in rural areas like East Texas.

That yearning is easy to understand. It doesn’t take long in the city to be driven half-batty by all the noise you hear, a great deal of it caused by or coming from automobiles. It isn’t unusual at a big-city stoplight to hear radios blaring music in three or four different tongues, or at least I think they are different languages.

I once sat trapped in a traffic jam for almost an hour listening to an imam loudly intone the Quran on one side of me while on the other side a woman cranked up whatever was attempting to pass for country music that week. I thought about drowning it all out with Lynyrd Skynyrd but that might have caused an international incident.

Won’t you fly high, freebird, yeah …

But if those from the city think that coming to the country is going to fill their need for “peace and quiet,” they’re out of luck.

When I open my back door I hear what could be the world’s largest symphony playing random notes at the loudest possible volume. The sounds of summer have arrived and, this year, they are full-throated.

Credit the extra rain we’ve had. It’s not just the flora that’s flourished. The fauna’s been fruitful, and multiplied, too.

Yea, verily.

Last summer I could go outside and hear cicadas singing in the trees, some frogs holding forth and a few other insects that might be exhibiting their songs. The later it got in the night the less you would hear, though it never got completely quiet.

This summer it is a cacophony of sound that doesn’t stop before dawn, at which time the birds are waking up looking for breakfast. Anything that makes noise is sensible enough to keep quiet before the birds start feeding.

It’s almost frightening now to listen to the sounds of nature when I step out onto my back porch in the dead of night, sort of like stopping during a drive through the Arizona desert and taking time to look upward toward the heavens.

Goodness, where did all those stars come from?

Of course, as long as we live those stars are going to be there in essentially the same places they are now. It’s been that way since man has been here to look up at them.

These earthly sounds are not so permanent. They come and go according to lots of factors and the rain is a big one. The same insects that were here last week might not be here after a two-year drought, or if we find some fool way to kill them all.

I’m actually not too worried about insects in the great scheme of things. I figure they will survive quite well even if we don’t. Most of them might be cockroaches but they will live on. They’ll make noise, too.

Ever hear of the Madagascar hissing cockroach? Look it up and think about stepping out on your back porch some evening to hear nothing but a bunch of roaches hissing. I’m thinking I’ll just stay away from Madagascar.

If I knew all the insects (and other things) making noise on my front porch I might not be all that joyful about having them crawl on me, either. In the daytime I might squash them like, uh, a bug.

But by sound, if not by sight, they add to the beauty of this place and I surely would not want to do without them outside my back door. Beauty is more than skin deep. It goes all the way into your ears.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email

Today's Bible verse

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’ ”

John 8:34

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