Lessons learned in the heat

Just sitting in the heat a few days ago turned me from the happy, uncomplaining fellow most people think I am, into a miserable whiner. Once I get started complaining, I sound much like the axle on a farm wagon that hasn’t seen grease for a year.

I sat in my chair remembering other times the heat had got to me – like the trip across Montana in my black Austin in 1952. I had bought a black car because I didn’t know any better. In August, as we rolled along U.S. Highway 2 with the temperature at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, I learned why I should not have bought a black car. It attracted heat like a magnet attracts nails. We perspired until our clothes became waterlogged.

The car had a sun roof, but when we opened it to get air, the sun beat down on us, prompting me to slam it shut. Instead of air conditioners, cars of a half century ago had those little three-cornered windows or vents on the leading edge of side windows. You could adjust them to move air into or out of the car. I spun the one on the driver’s side to blast air in, but snapped it shut when incoming air practically burned the skin off my face. I swore I’d never again buy another black car – or drive across Montana in summertime. I’ve broken both those promises, proving some of us never learn.    

Next, I recalled a hot time in South Africa. We had volunteered to help with maintenance at a mission station during Christmas holidays. South Africa has reversed seasons with Christmas occurring in midsummer.

The mission station was located in the Orange Free State – flat prairie country, the South African equivalent of southern Alberta or Montana. I recalled pictures of my father bivouacking in similar country during the Anglo-Boer War. I remembered him telling me that the African sun would heat the metal parts of his rifle so they would burn the skin off his fingers if he touched them. I dropped my tools to the ground, leaned on a nearby fence post and dreamed of those days of long ago. Deciding I’d better get back to work, I bent down, grabbed the tools, screamed in pain and looked at the red welts on my hands. As I said, some of us just never learn.

Heat doesn’t always mean discomfort. I recalled a pleasant experience on the farm in Alberta on a hot August day. We had moved from the farm to town and I, a 14-year-old, had returned alone to do some minor job around the buildings. The sizzling heat had got to me when I noticed a drum of water abandoned in the middle of the yard. I could see no one on adjacent farms, so I stripped off my clothes and “streaked” through the yard to the drum, as bare as a maple tree in mid winter. I leaped in, immersing myself to my neck. It felt wonderful – until I heard the sound of a car labouring up the coulee hill toward the farm yard.

Okay, I’m wrong. That time I learned something. I never tried that stunt again. But then, I’ve never again found an abandoned drum of water on a hot day.


Ray Wiseman