‘What heat?’ dad used to say



Ted Escobar

During a business transaction in Yakima last Monday, a young man of 45 said, “Things do change with age. I can really feel this heat.”

I nodded agreement while thinking: You should try it from my side of 70.

Yeah sonny, I can tell you some hot summer stories. No, we didn't fry eggs on the car’s hood, but it was hot enough that our cat stopped climbing up there.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are farm people around here. It’s likely your banker, your physician or dentist has bucked hay, loaded grain sacks or hoed sugar beets in such heat. Farm people just deal with it.

I know some of you are convinced about global warming or climate change. You may be right, but you’re probably wrong. The oceans and the air were created with safeguards against man’s mistakes. There is proof of that all over the world.

Once in a while, like last week, mother nature reminds us of who is in charge. As sage old men (I’m still getting there) like to say, you’re less than a speck in the world’s scheme of things.

You realize it every time mother nature throws some difficulty at you. There is absolutely nothing you can do but wait. And you look at Accuweather or the national weather service hoping a break is on the way.

Let me tell you a few names of people you know in one walk of life who have the farm life in their backgrounds. How about dentist Dr. James Stevens, insurance agent Juan Aguilar and retired Radio Shack owner Betty Carlyle.

It got pretty hot late in the asparagus season, sometimes topping 100 degrees. We picked potatoes until the temperature neared 100 degrees between 11 a.m. and noon. And, we left the field only because we feared unpicked potatoes would burn exposed to the sun.

Hoeing sugar beets is what I remember most of the hot days of summer. We’d start at daylight in order to escape the high heat of the afternoon. The temperature would start rising immediately. You’d be grateful when a short breeze would touch you.

Things worked out pretty well if dad was elsewhere and our oldest sister, Della, was in charge. We’d leave the field at about 90 degrees. But if dad was there, we never left the field at 90 degrees. At 92, he’d say, “It’s just starting to warm up.” At 94, he’d say, “This is nothing.” At 96, he’d say, “Come on, one more pass. We can do it, and then we can go home.”

Not only did we work, we rarely drank water. Dad was like the football coaches of our day. He said we could tough it out and that water was for sissies. I can’t remember who gave in first on that belief, dad or the coaches.

During heat waves, sometimes we wished for rain. That’s what I was thinking around 1960 when I was hoeing in a flower garden mom and dad put together. According to the thermometer on our garage wall, the temperature ascended to 113 that day.

I looked up and started to feel joyful as clouds rolled into Granger from the southwest. The rain was, indeed, coming. But first, there was thunder and a strike of lightning close enough that the shock came up my hoe. Fortunately it had a long wooden handle. Still, it rattled the handle and me, too.

Yeah, I dealt with the heat in those days by toughing it out. Now I hydrate (never knew the word back in the day). I drink water all day to keep cool, just like my doctor and co-workers say.

So, to that middle-age fellow in Yakima I say: Yeah, things change with age. That’s why riding golf carts were invented.


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