Tag Archives: heat

The Heat Monster

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heat-shimmering

This blog was originally published in Southern Living and was written by Rick Bragg who is a Pulitzer Prize- Winning writer and author of several best selling books. I identified with it so much I wanted to share it with you.

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When I was a boy, when monsters were real.  I would see it in the distance, hovering just above the hot, almost liquid blacktop.  It had no form, just a thing shimmering, indistinct.  Now I know it was the heat itself, distorting the very air.  How odd, to see the heat. But when I was small, it was easy to see more in it than that.  This was the creature that came in the worst of summer, the boiling eye of it.  It was the could in a white-hot sky that gave up no rain.  Aristotle knew it, and the Romans, and then us, in the American South.  That thing of glimmering heat from my imagination did not have a name, truly, but its season did.  We called it the dog days.

The Greeks and Romans believed Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Great Dog), ushered in an evil season in late summer, one that boiled seas and soured wine and sent people and livestock into fits.  In that season, the DogStar and our sun hung together in the heavens, one rising, one setting, which, they believed, produced more heat than the planet could stand.

Now, of course, we know it is the tilt of the planet, closer to the sun, that brings the heat, but my grandmother knew better.  Ava Bundrum knew there were more things than heaven and earth, and spoke of the dog days the way she would any unnatural thing.  She would motion me close, as if the clinging air were listening, wave a cardboard funeral home fan at me like she was giving me some kind of blessing, and tell me to stay out of the pasture, stay out of the woods.

It was more than myth.  Dogs went mad, or lay panting, glassy-eyed, and you could not rouse them to play.  Food went bad in the dog bowls.  Cats, through, did not seem to care.  Cats don’t ever care.

I can remember children crowded around a rattling box fan, as if it were telling them a story.  I remember strong men going white as chalk, trying to catch their breath.

Bulls went mad and tore through fences.  Cows would not give mild, and when they did, it went sour, or tasted of sulfur or onions.  Birds flew in the house, a bad omen.  It meant someone was going to die.  Chickens perished in the coops  Rabies resurfaced, in foxes, usually, and men shot them from the porch.

The gardens withered. You got either quick, violent storms or no rain at all.  Mudholes vanished into pieces of hard clay, like someone had smashed a pot on the ground.  Grogs perished, which made my grandmother sad; the more frogs, the healthier the land.  (Everyone knew that.) Only the insects reveled.  Flies and gnats swirled.  Mosquitoes danced. and there was nowhere to hide.

Air-conditioning was myth. We put a man on the moon before my family had a window unit.  But when we did, when the air blew cool in August, it was like the mean season became myth itself, just another story, like the ones that old people told of the Depression.  I guess I am the old people now.  I think of the dog days when I see that glimmer on the distant asphalt, but when I there, it is already gone.

ZfdfdStar and our sun hung tog

Life in Texas 1850

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???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The weather here in Oklahoma has been over 100 for the past several days. I have stayed close to the air-conditioning to stay comfortable. I was remembering this morning when I was a kid, it was nothing to have summers with temps at 110 that lasted for many days. We didn’t have air conditioning but we always had a good trusty box fan to blow hot air around. That was a big help. Anything to keep the air moving because with the humidity if it wasn’t moving it felt as if it were taking your breath away.

Homestead jpgAt this point you’re probably wondering why I titled this blog Life in Texas in 1850. That has to do with a branch of my family that lived on the Red River during that time. I can’t even begin to understand what their life was really like. I know it was at times almost intolerable and at other times laughter was happening because that is life.

A family had to worry about survival on a more intimate basis than we are. You know, just even getting hot water was a chore, not only in hauling, but then you had to heat it up. So, all the daily chores than required a lot more forethought—as well as just physical labor. Men, women and children—everybody’s working towards family survival. It didn’t matter if it was 110 outside that fire still had to be built. It went on every day of their life. The struggle to survive.washboard

OuthouseDrawing-150x150We take so much for granted in this day and time. How do you think you would do without electricity and running water? The family back then did what they had to do. That was the life they knew and was accustomed to living. I have a great appreciation and respect for what people have accomplished in the past. Imagine what our life would be like today if our families had not dealt with the life they had.
Have a blessed day.