“(And) they say he got crazy once and tried to touch the sun, and he lost a friend but kept the memory’ John Denver lyrics. Dog Days is such a time.
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On our island we know when Dog Days arrive. Nerves get on edge; tempers flare, cordiality is short and testy. We pack ourselves in dry ice to keep from melting. Worse, shaded parking places are harder to find than hen’s teeth.
I circle the parking lot looking for one. No luck. New York plates have them. I’m forced to expose myself to the hellish heat radiating from the black asphalt pavement. It’s like walking on the fires of hell. The soles of my shoes scream.
You think this is all hyperbole? Check out today’s weather forecast. Heat index: 102 degrees.
In Dixie, once revered until lately, we are enduring the insufferable assault of Dog Days. We move like liquid, as languid as molasses, zombies in slow motion. Meanwhile, the sleepy hound crawls from its heavenly hibernation, shakes off the cosmic dust of its lethargy and announces its scorching presence.
Sirius, the Dog Star, gets its start early. Rising before dawn, it follows the sun’s circuit like a dog in heat. It basks in the sweltering sauna of humidity and inflicts its relentless heat upon us for six weeks. Only billionaires can avoid its unrelenting assault by escaping to outer space.
New to Dog Days? Google ‘heat wave.’ It’s when the sun pours out its searing bowl of wrath upon the earth, hot as the breath of the devil. It torches every living creature. People repent, pray and pledge their first born for reprieve. Relief comes only with a huge ransom.
Bigwig executives of Georgia’s utility monopoly luxuriate in air-conditioned comfort in Atlanta high rise office suites. They lunch scrumptiously from revenue generated by massive utility bills while bankrupt customers wander aimlessly about in hypnotic stupors.
The heat bakes Georgia’s red clay into bricks. Corn stalks wither, rivers boil. All nature languishes in silent submission to the onslaught. Asphalt roads melt into hot tar. Only kudzu, the Southern Cannibal, survives unscathed. This insidious vine is Georgia’s green solution to obliterating unsightly billboards of personal injury attorneys and abandoned, derelict tenant homes littering the backroads of long-forgotten farms.
Often the Okefenokee Swamp erupts into flames by spontaneous combustion. Huge plumes of smoke deposit ash trails reminiscent of Sodom’s Vesuvius demise. Mobile homes melt in the heat’s relentless march to the sea. Nothing is spared.
People in the piney woods pack their pickups. They flee the fiery path in panic and confusion, weeping and clinging to each other in the wild chaotic exit. The horror resembles a scene from Sherman’s 2.0 playbook.
The watermelon supply chain remains compromised, short supply everywhere. Last year a local farmer’s market advertised its remaining stock on e-Bay. Bidding was intense. A condo speculator from Macon paid $2,000 for the last melon. Before leaving the parking lot, he doubled his money by flipping it to a fellow from Michigan. Which might explain the state’s tolerance toward Yankees.
How to stay cool without going totally naked is a challenge. I personally fell for the slick newspaper inserts touting linen shirts. “Stay cool, wear linen,” they read. I bought five, only to discover they soak up humidity like a sponge and appear to crawl off my back.
But all is not bad news in the sultry days of summer. Creativity helps us cope. Last year I spent a morning among the moss-draped oak hammocks with my friend, Wes Schlosser. Wes is a Falconer, a trainer of red tail hawks.
These large birds are Georgia’s finest rodent predators. Wes nurtures them to maturity, giving them a fighting chance for survival. One has not lived a full-orbed life until a red tail hawk, bloody in beak and talon, perches on his gloved arm. There are magical moments in Dixie even in dog days.
Soon the sun will sink slowly into a blazing orange ball atop the trees on the western horizon. It will glow for a time like an incandescent liquid rock while we gaze in awe at nature’s palate of colors and toast with a cool one the remains of a declining summer day.
Such are Dog Days in Dixie when anything is possible. Pretend it’s Saturday night somewhere. Find your best neon-light heat retreat, make a memory and let the good times roll. Nothing lasts forever.
July 28, 2021
Drawing courtesy of Leslie Hearn