Beating the heat

Farm Forum

The truly hot temperatures have at last arrived which is a good thing because it will force us to find new ways to complain about the weather.

Let’s face it: we have had approximately eleven months to hone our repertoire of words to use when carping about the cold but are woefully unprepared when it comes to harping about the heat. Difficult as it might be, we need to “switch gears” and think of similes and metaphors to describe how hot it is. This is a huge challenge, but I have confidence in our abilities.

And we shouldn’t fall back on such worn-out standbys as “it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk,” or “it’s so hot, I saw a robin using a potholder to pull out a worm.” Anyone who uses a phrase such as “hot enough for you?” should be summarily doused with ice water.

It’s our duty to find terminology that transcends such hackneyed hyperbole. Something “hip” and “cutting edge” is what’s needed. An example might be “it’s so hot outside, even Scarlett Johansson wouldn’t show up on a thermal imaging camera!”

You get the idea. And ladies, feel free to create your own metaphor using whatever manly hunk of male hunkiness is popular nowadays. That matter is terra incognita to me.

I have a sister who has a daughter who is a Registered Nurse. In addition to this estimable job, that particular niece also does volunteer nursing in such countries as Nicaragua and Africa. We’re talking regions where the weather is similar to the interior of a sauna.

“Think of it!” said my sister as we discussed her daughter. “In those places it’s often something like 95 degrees with a hundred percent humidity. No air conditioning, no indoor plumbing and insects and parasites everywhere! Sleeping in that heat with maybe just a fan. I don’t know how she does it!”

I considered this for a moment and replied, “I agree that those are some tough conditions. But they are the exact circumstances we endured when we were kids!”

She had no choice but to concur. We recalled how we eight kids slept – or, more accurately, tried to sleep – in the sweltering upstairs bedrooms of our old farmhouse. And what a big deal it was when we finally got a box fan and how we would jostle for a spot in its soothing slipstream. Ah! The luxury of moving air!

Memories of sleeping in that plaster-and-lath greenhouse brought forth recollections of other things we did as youngsters despite the hellish summertime heat.

For instance, our herd of Holsteins had to be milked every day whatever the weather. Our barn had 26 stanchions and a low ceiling and a few smallish windows. These features helped keep the barn warm in the wintertime, but during summertime its internal temperature reached levels normally associated with a pizza oven.

Each cow put out about a million BTUs of heat, most of it in the form of extremely bad breath. Each cow had her own personal entourage of several hundred flies, all of whom were eager to trade dining on tough cowhide for a bite of tender human skin.

The profusion of flies meant that the cows’ tails were in constant motion. Cows have notoriously bad aim when it comes to swatting flies, often missing the insects and instead smacking the face of the kid who is milking her. The switches of their tails were frequently adorned with such things as cockleburs or wrecking balls constructed of dried dung. That’s if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, the switch would be wet. Nothing good ever comes with a wet tail.

We also stacked bales of hay in the loft of that barn during the searing heat of summer. The haymow should have been classified as a kiln; I wouldn’t have been surprised if the glass globe protecting its lone light bulb had softened and sagged.

But conditions weren’t totally unreasonable. While we stacked those dusty, itch-inducing bales of hay, we were allowed to swig as much ice water as we wanted. All from the same jug, of course. Our mouth germs must have been constantly saying, “Hello there! Mi casa es tu casa!”

And when we weren’t otherwise occupied, we would play. Outdoors! In the broiling sun! And I don’t mean video games, which wouldn’t be invented for another century.

Tag, hide-and-seek or just climbing trees were among our favorite summertime pastimes. We tore about with abandon, paying no mind to the humidity and the bugs and the fact that it was so hot, our hens were laying hard-boiled eggs.

If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: