The South is a strange and wonderful place, but there are times when I question my decision to stay here. Some years, the months of July and August are so brutal it seems there’s not enough mercury …
The South is a strange and wonderful place, but there are times when I question my decision to stay here. Some years, the months of July and August are so brutal it seems there’s not enough mercury in the thermometer to render an accurate reading. It’s during these toasty times that I dream about moving to a more accommodating climate.
I know people in Arizona would snicker at the thought of calling the weather hot when it’s below 100 degrees. Jilda and I flew in to Phoenix a few years back. It was hot, but without humidity as thick as peanut butter, it didn’t seem as oppressive to me.
Last week, I wondered if the next step in the evolutionary journey for humans was to start growing gills. That would make it easier to breathe and survive when humidity is thick enough to drink.
When I was a kid, it got hot during the summer. Air conditioning was a luxury that few people enjoyed. Since I was young and spent most of the daylight hours outside, it didn’t bother me as much.
Our old camp house in Sloss had two huge shade trees in the front yard. One was a sycamore and the other a cottonwood. The sycamore had seed balls packed hard as golf balls but when broken apart, the insides were as soft as a boll of cotton. The leaves of the old cottonwood looked as big as umbrellas to me. Together, those trees provided enough shade to keep the house from baking in the summer sun.
My friends and I spent most summer days in the canopy of the nearby woods. When we got hot, we’d cool off in the icy water of Horse Creek.
I’m not sure how my mom coped with cooking supper in that old camp house, but she managed, and I don’t remember hearing her complain.
My dad was a welder at a company that made huge industrial fans. The place where he worked was a metal building in Birmingham. Burning and welding steel can be hot work when the weather is cold. I can’t imagine doing that work in July and August.
I’m not sure how he survived during those years, but he did.
When Jilda and I first married, we lived in a trailer without air conditioning. In 1980, the phone company sent me to Mobile. Hurricane Fredrick had destroyed a chunk of the company’s infrastructure, so I spent most of that year working there. Jilda decided to join me in April, and we lived in a Howard Johnson’s Hotel on Government Boulevard.
Every few weeks the company allowed us to go home. When Jilda and I went home in July/August of 1980, it was during a heatwave. All the decorative candles in our trailer had melted into puddles. The trailer was uninhabitable when the sun was out. Not long afterward, we began making plans to build a house. The main thing both of us wanted was air conditioning.
Alabama sometimes feels like paradise in the fall, winter, and spring. But July and August here makes me dream about “summering” in the mountains of Colorado.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, “Life Goes On,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org