If you think this is a hot time in the old town, just imagine Seymour, Texas on August 12, 1936 when the mercury in the thermometer climbed to a record 120 degrees! Just think about that summer day long before air-conditioning was available. There are other places on earth hotter than Erath County, take Baghdad, Iraq for instance. The weather checker on my phone reads that it is 118, 119, 120 every day in Bagdad. And I’ll bet money that our soldiers over there, carrying around several pounds of equipment and protecting our freedom would appreciate walking around over here.
So much depends upon your point of view.
My brother and I used to move our beds out in the yard in the summer when we lived out in the country, just trying to feel a little cooler. I loved sleeping under the stars and if a little rain shower came up, we’d just make a run for the house. Very little rain ever fell in the 1930s, so getting wet wasn’t a problem.
One thing I really liked was when “Old Beaver” slept with us. Old Beaver was a greyhound that Uncle Alvie had given to Austin when the pup was just six weeks old. That dog was lightning fast and once he spotted a jackrabbit, that rabbit was done for. Beaver could jump fences as the rabbit dove under them and catch him on the other side. Another talent Beaver had was catching a frying chicken once Mama pointed out the one she wanted to catch. He would dive into a flock of fifteen or twenty young roosters catch the one that had been pointed out, put one foot on each wing, and hold it until Mama could pick it up.
She gave him the head as a reward after she rung the chicken’s neck. But as much as Mama thought of that old dog, she never let him in the house. She believed that dogs belonged outside, so when Austin and I moved our beds to the yard, Beaver got to sleep with one of us. We took turns coaxing him to one of our beds.
Sleeping on our beds in the yard was cooler than sleeping in the house but nothing like going to bed in an air-conditioned room. It was a long time before that luxury became standard for us.
We were without air-conditioned classrooms when I went off to college and how well I remember nights during summer classes when I was living in an un-air-conditioned dorm room. My roommate and I would get up, take a cold shower in our pajamas then lie down on our beds still soaking wet. A small fan on the dresser stirred a breeze across our beds and we could go to sleep for an hour or so until we dried out. Then one of us would sit up, unable to sleep in the heat so the whole process began again continuing until time to get up and get ready for class. We couldn’t wear shorts on campus in those days but wore dresses, hose and heels to class all of which kept us fanning whenever possible.
One blistering afternoon, someone brought a car to the campus with a new invention fixed in the half-open window on the driver’s side. It was an evaporative cooler. You could pour water in the little trough and when the car was in motion, wind came through the wet excelsior forcing cool air into the car. Some of us borrowed that wonderful invention and drove up to Turner Falls in Oklahoma. Wow, we thought we’d never had it so good. We figured that within a year, every automobile would have an air-conditioner because it made traveling in hot weather so much more comfortable. Of course it was many years later before air-conditioning became a standard part of every vehicle on the road.
My family and I traveled many miles across the country in the summertime with the windows rolled down and a hot wind searing our faces as it came through the open windows. We used to get up in the middle of the night and drive as far as we could before the day got really hot.
Folks always talk about the weather, just like Mark Twain said and very little can be done about it. For those of us living in Texas, talking about the weather is often a joke because of the rapid change in temperature. Right now we fuss about the heat but in a few months, the same folks will be complaining about the cold. Last winter was pretty cold around here but not as cold as the record in Texas. Next time you hear a complaint about the heat, remind them that winter is coming and that the record cold for Texas, -23 degrees, was set February 2, 1933 in Seminole. In Texas you can either freeze to death or burn up, maybe on the same day, so sit back in your easy chair and enjoy life while you can.