Be safe during this heat wave

Deborah Mitchell - Community Columnist

Though it’s stating the obvious, I must say it. It’s hot. I know that July is mid-summer, and that summer is supposed to be hot, but the heat and humidity over these past few days have been almost intolerable. You know it’s bad when you walk out of your house in the morning and your glasses fog up.

And the heat is enervating. I begin the day exhausted, and it just gets worse as the hours pass. Around 2 p.m., I start thinking that a nap sounds really good.

Of course, the yard work still needs to be done. Mowing isn’t too bad, because we have a riding mower, but getting the weeds out requires bending over and pulling; my sunglasses slip off my face as the sweat pops out. Fortunately, this summer, we have helpers who are much younger than we, and they are less bothered by their own sweat than we are by ours. They seem to have more stamina, as well. Imagine that!

Our water bill has exploded, too. Grass doesn’t like hot, dry weather, and neither do the annuals that Max planted so lovingly and expectantly just a couple of months ago. Additionally, I read a few years ago that a big tree can drink up to 250 gallons of water per day from the earth, and we have several of those big trees in our yard. We had more, but the first year we lived in our house was a year following a big drought. Unbeknownst to us, that drought year had put so much stress on the trees that a couple of them died.

I remember looking at the beautifully shaped maple tree, like a big umbrella, and seeing yellow leaves on a third of the tree, realizing, with a sinking feeling, that the maple was not long for the world – and our yard. A Missouri conservationist confirmed that, and told us the probable reason for the tree’s demise. Since that time, when our part of the country goes through drought, we just turn on the hose and let the trees absorb all the water they can. Ergo, the water bill goes up for each tree we convince ourselves that we are saving.

Walking from the outside into an air-conditioned building gives great relief, and getting into a car that feels like an oven is a chore. I can certainly see the benefit of being able to start a car remotely, beginning the cooling process even while the door remains locked; no one can steal the running car while its owner waits for a couple of minutes until the temperature inside is bearable.

What I can’t fathom is summer without air conditioning, even though my family didn’t have any home air conditioning until I was 7 or so, when we installed one little window unit. Eventually, we added another window unit when we added the basement. Bubba also had a window unit in her little duplex, and Grandma and Grandpa had a window unit in a bedroom, but their house was often pleasant because of a window box fan and cross ventilation. The big oak tree in their yard provided plenty of shade so that I don’t remember suffering from the heat there.

Though I can’t remember what it felt like, I do remember that our cars had no air conditioning. That was an expensive add-on, and our family couldn’t afford it. Grandpa bought and installed an air conditioning unit for his big, black Pontiac, and it often dripped condensation onto my bare feet as I rode in the middle of the front seat, waiting for Grandpa to put me on his lap to drive up the dirt lane to the house. I can’t believe he let me do that.

So today, as I look out my window at the tired trees and grass and the withering flowers, I hope that everybody remains safe during this heat wave. I comfort myself by looking at the calendar and noting that these days, just as all others, will pass, and we will eventually enjoy more temperate weeks. In the meantime, I will probably stay indoors. And it’s about 2 p.m. Time for a nap.

Deborah Mitchell

Community Columnist

Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.

Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.

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