Sure is hot, ainít it?

Surely itís just my imagination, or maybe Iím having hot flashes. It is, after all, only June 14. Everyone knows it doesnít get to be 97 degrees on June 14, right? Thatís late July, early August weather.

Last June we werenít even reaching 90 yet. Nowadays you hear people having conversations on the sidewalk like:

"Whatís that smell?"

"Singed hair. On the back of my neck, I think."

"Smells terrible."

"Well, why donít you go stand somewhere else?"

"I canít."

"Why not?"

"My shoes are melted to the concrete."

Itís just brutally hot, thatís what it is. What little rain we get the ground soaks up like French bread soaks up roux gravy. The lack of rain is terrible, too, though it has the undisputed benefit of keeping the growth of grass slow. Unfortunately the grass also turns brown and withered. I see people watering their lawns all over the place and I certainly admire such devotion. I am far too lazy, and besides, watering it means Iíd just have to cut it sooner. I hate cutting grass.

We certainly could use the rain, though, even if it does mean I have to cut the grass more often. I wouldnít mind about an inch a day, three days a week. A gulley-washer doesnít do much good because the ground doesnít have time to soak it up.

I had gotten in the habit of enjoying a cold one and watching the sunset from my patio with my girl in the evenings, but itís gotten too stinking hot for that, too. The heat of the concrete radiates upward and scalds the backs of my legs and under my chin. I put my hand to it and itís hot as the dickens, and testing reveals it really doesnít cool sufficiently until around 1 a.m. at which point the mosquitoes are too bad to enjoy a cold one on the patio anyway.

Thereís a big beehive in the crook of two limbs of my enormous oak tree in the back yard. Been there since I moved in nine years ago. This fall, a big chunk of the honeycomb fell out and I retrieved it for a keepsake, a conversation piece, so to speak. Unfortunately, I left it in the shop and noticed the other day that my dinner plate-sized piece of honeycomb had turned into a sticky puddle that smelled faintly like royal jelly. It was quite a mess to clean up but made me hungry for waffles.

The house used to be protected by many shade trees on the sunny side prior to Hurricane Andrew which took Ďem all out. Iíve been investigating fast-growing shade trees for this zone, something on the order of 20 feet per year, but so far have not been able to locate a suitable species. Iím told cypress or red maple would be pretty good, though the maple isnít very hurricane resistant. Good shade trees make a 10-degree difference in a house, especially an old one with a metal roof. The now-sunny-side of the house had several cedar trees, two pecans and a couple others I canít remember the species of, might have been chicken trees, but they were big. My grandmother had a clothesline on a post back there, one of those umbrella-style jobs that spun around. There was an old cistern back there, and though I was forbidden to drink from it, I did steal a taste now and then when nobody was looking. The old brass faucet turned with difficulty but the water was fresh and clean and made me think of gray clouds and pattering drops on tin roofs. I miss tin roofs. My house has a metal roof, which is not the same thing. Itís the new roof thing. Broad corrugations and thick. Lasts forever, but I miss tin roofs, with the little wavy corrugations and that dappled-silver kinda galvanized finish to it. Actually the garage and shop still have this kind of roof and it looks much more traditional to me. Those new metal roofs look sorta art-deco. Or maybe neo-art-deco. Who knows?

I used to ride horses in heat like this, but I donít know how I managed. Heck, Iíd come home after all day riding Kate, my quarter horse that was exactly the same age as me to the day, and weíd be none the worse for wear. These days, I guess itís age, I leave the house or the office and that hot air hits my face and I think, "Which way to the bush country?"

Back in my younger days, too, Iíd fish all day in my little boat in this kind of heat without thinking twice about it. Now I donít even want to think about being on the lake after about 11 a.m. because Iím afraid the water will start boiling and Iíll be caught in it. I used to hunt quail in the canefields back then, right where the casino is now, and it didnít bother me, but sometimes my gun would get so hot Iíd come home to find the word "Remington" branded in my palm. In reverse, of course. "notgnimeR." Whatever. Luckily I didnít shoot an Ithaca. "acahtI." Never mind.

I was never much of a duck hunter, because I hate cold worse than heat. I went one time with a pal when we were teenagers. It was something like 20 below zero and we were in a blind somewhere south of Nowhere, USA and did not see a single duck, not even a sparrow. Iíd have shot a sparrow, believe me, with my .16 gauge Stevens 311 if it meant I could go home and bathe in scalding-hot water to defrost. After six or eight hours Ė seemed like six or eight days Ė we gave up and I never went duck hunting again. Of course, the following weekend my pal told me how he had "mopped up on Ďem" on his very next trip.

The old Stevens 311 was a great side-by-side double barrel shotgun that I sold when I was in my early 20s and wish I hadnít. Funny about how we regret such things later in life. I still regret getting rid of my comic book collection and my Six Million Dollar Man action figures. I regret getting rid of my first Mustang, but not the subsequent ones.

I notice that since they made us change from the old Freon to the new stuff car air-conditioners really donít work as well. I had a 1976 Caprice Classic that would turn the inside into an arctic tundra. That baby blew at 38 degrees. These new air conditioners with this new refrigerant youíre lucky if you get it down to 55 degrees. Iím all for protecting the ozone layer, donít get me wrong, but it seems to be if we can send a guy to the moon, make cell phones the size of Saltine crackers that send e-mail and take pictures and computers faster than the Road Runner, we can make a refrigerant that gets back to 38 degrees. Maybe we need to get the Swiss on that one.

On the other hand, maybe that old refrigerant is why itís so hot these days.

Anyway. Sure is hot, ainít it?