Published Sunday, July 01, 2012

Summer In The South

Payback can be painful. And right now, Southerners are getting a big dose of it.

Last year, those of us blessed to call the Deep South home enjoyed one of the mildest summer seasons in years. Things were so comfortable people even quit making jokes about Yankee transplants that wilt like diseased daffodils in normal Southern heat.

This year, no one's laughing. The heat is back. And it's dangerous. At least according to some.

Every year when the thermometer soars past 90 degrees, TV fearmongers fill the air with warnings for stupid people about how to protect themselves against life-threatening heat. The advice boils down to "drink fluids and stay out of the sun."

In other words, what our grandparents did before TV or home air-conditioning were around.

Now we hear that hot weather can cause everything from jock itch to death. Jock itch maybe, but death can be avoided if you sit under a tree. However, there are other heat-related problems that can make death look like an attractive option. One is traveling with pets. Especially if your car's air-conditioning croaks.

One year, my family drove from Louisiana to visit relatives on the Georgia coast. We took along our dog Rusty, a cocker-spaniel mix with short legs and a weight problem. 

A sweeter dog never drew breath. On that trip, Rusty almost drew her last. 

We drove a station wagon at the time. Rusty rode in the "way back" section of the vehicle. I rode back there with her. The problem was, Rusty had never traveled in a car before. Not even down the driveway.  

She started vomiting about a half hour out of town. She didn't stop for twelve hours. We did. Plenty. Mostly to let Rusty out to barf on the road and allow me to wipe dog vomit from my clothes.

When the car's air-conditioner broke, a bad trip turned unbearable. Before we left Georgia my Uncle Ben's vet gave Rusty some pills to knock her out on the return trip. She never left home again.

Heat can also destroy stored beverages. When I was in college I earned extra cash playing in a band that performed at fraternity and sorority parties. We made good bucks for college kids.

We traveled with a trailer packed with our instruments and sound system. On the way back from engagements, the trailer was also packed with enough cold beer to replenish the fluids we had lost during a long night of singing, dancing and horn blowing.

After one trip, we were too "tired" to unpack the gear or the leftover beer. It was the height of summer. Two days later we finally got around to unloading the trailer. That's when we learned that cans of unopened beer left unsupervised in an overheated trailer will  explode. It was the musical equivalent of Chernobyl.

After that, the beer stayed in the car.

These days, I am careful not to leave my stash of traveling soft drinks locked up overnight in a vehicle during hot weather.

On the bright side, heat can have an upside, too. On one drive home to New Orleans from my grandmother's house in Ft. Gaines, Ga. I told my parents I was "overheated." I convinced them the only cure was a fresh donut. We found some in Mobile. From the way they gobbled those donuts, my folks and sister  must have been overheated, too. That impromptu donut break remains a fond family memory.

It's summer in the South. It's hot. Deal with it. If you feel like you're in danger, dash to the nearest Krispy Kreme.

You can thank me later.


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