Cooling Off

By Joe Rector

Weather forecasters predict that temperatures will cool into the 80’s in the coming days. The summer of 2016 has been the hottest we’ve had in the last few years. Perhaps global warming is finally giving us a preview of what’s in store if our pollution of the planet continues. At any rate, we have had a steady stream of days with highs in the 90’s. I don’t pay attention to the “feels like” temperatures because 90 degrees is plenty hot without add-ons. A pool in the backyard is the place where we retreat to escape those blast-furnace temperatures. As a child, we turned to different things for cooling off.

At home, we resorted to using a water hose or sprinkler for relief. Jim and I put on our bathing suits and ran in and out of the spray. Sometimes, we’d put on masks and walk straight into the water blasts. One downside to the activity was that the water attracted bees and wasps, and they shooed us inside with stings. Another was that we wore bare spots in the yard with constant stomping in the same place.

We also walked across a hayfield next to the house to reach a small creek. A long board reached from bank to bank, and we sat on it and held imaginary club meetings. Before long, we broke out the snacks and ate peanut butter crackers and washed them down with water or Kool-Aid. That place offered at least a few minutes of relief from the scorching temperatures.

Just up the road passed the railroad tracks, a small bridge spanned Ball Camp Pike. We boys gathered our fishing poles and walked to it. The bridge was so low that we had to stoop to pass under it. For a couple of hours our backs stayed hunched over as we fished for small blue gill. Just drowning worms was okay as long as we could remain by the water and out of the sun.

As we grew up, our neighborhood gang of boys biked across the ridge and toward Beaver Creek. Arriving at our destination, we parked our bikes at the edge of the field, trekked across the land, and skinny-dipped in the water, which was much cleaner than it is today. Eventually, the group reluctantly dressed and biked home as our clothes stuck to wet skin. The bonus was the dampness felt especially good as we traveled down the roads.

When all else failed, we sat under one of the sprawling maple trees in the back yard and hoped for a breeze or a cloud-filled sky. The sound of thunder spiked our hopes of a summer shower that would drop the temperatures. For one of the few times in our lives, we boys sat as still as possible to keep from melting in the heat. The fact remained that after those showers the combination of the sun and humidity returned and turned all outside into a sauna.

Too many people now whine about hot weather. Most never experienced a life where the only cooling thing in the house was a small box window fan or wide opened window with a screen to stop mosquitoes from getting inside. Air conditioning has put an end to people’s ability to tolerate any kind of warm temperatures. What they fail to remember is that in only a few days, temperatures will begin to drop until they plunge. Frigid conditions will replace hot ones. Then they’ll gripe and complain about how cold it is. That’s when I might join them because I never warm up until the spring thaw. I’d rather cool off than warm up.

 

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