How do you beat the summer heat? Think about it.
Summer is just now beginning, and already we are complaining about the heat. We have these intermittent rains and storms that cool the earth, but we still have heat to look forward to nearly every day. We are lucky now because all our cars and homes are air-conditioned. We take those luxuries for granted, especially when we remember the olden days of coping with the heat day and night. We are in for a long, hot summer if we don’t learn to live with Oklahoma heat and storms.
When I was a kid, we didn’t even have air conditioners, so we had to keep cool the best way we knew how. Since we didn’t have air conditioners, we really didn’t know what being cool was in the summer unless we went swimming in the pond or wading in the creek. We took advantage of cloudy, cool days to do heavy work like mowing the yard or painting outside.
We got up early so we could get our work done in the cool of the day before the sun beat down on us so hard. We gathered produce from the garden and berries from the pastures before it got real, real hot. Then in the cooler part of the day we did work that was easier. We sat in the shade and worked up the produce and got it ready to can or cook.
We moved around the house to sit on porches or in the shade of the huge trees in the yard. In the country, there was always a breeze somewhere, especially in the shade. We rested during the heat of the day and then when it got cooler in the evenings, we did some more work. We conserved energy and paced ourselves so we didn’t get too hot. We tried not to talk about the heat.
Nearly every house was surrounded by big trees that furnished shade. When we rested in the shade, the women visited and fanned themselves with a newspaper or magazine or one of those cardboard fans with wooden sticks for handles that many businesses gave out as advertisements. All the churches had those fans stuck in the slots were the song books were placed. Everyone fanned to stir a breeze. No one was cool, but we felt like we were. Some of the ladies carried fancy fans that unfolded and folded up. Those fans had other uses, too. I can remember being tapped by Grandma or Mother with one of those fans when I misbehaved in church. They didn’t have to say a word. I knew what I had done and what I’d better stop.
A few times, we kids slept outside on the ground with a blanket or quilt under them and a sheet to cover them. Nearly everyone had a screened-in porch that they used in the summer for sleeping. Or they slept on the balconies of their houses. If they didn’t sleep outside, they opened all the windows and the breeze flowed through the house and kept everyone cool enough to sleep. There was always a breeze.
Some nights were almost unbearable, but we did not know anything else but heat, so we made the best of it. Even when we slept outside, I don’t recall being frightened that someone would bother us in any way or even wake us up. And I don’t remember that there were mosquitoes. We could hear coyotes off in the distance and occasional Indian drums, but we were not scared. Even some who lived in town slept outside and kept their beds in the yard. They took their mattresses and bedding inside during the day. Almost all houses had sleeping porches or a way to beat the summer heat.
When people traveled, they arrived with a big wet spot on the backs of their shirts where they had perspired. We drove with the windows down, and our hair went everywhere. We looked a fright when we arrived, but we went and had a good time. No matter where we were we were hot, so might as well be hot on a vacation as home working. Most cars had towels or maps or baby diapers up at the windows to keep out the hot sun. And cars had those canvas bags of water hanging from the radiator cap. Those bags kept the drinking water cool and served as an emergency if the radiator heated and had to be refilled.
We are so spoiled now with everything being air-conditioned. We gasp for air just walking from our house to the garage to get in the car. When we leave the mall, we nearly croak before we can get the car cooled down and the air conditioner on full blast. We are so spoiled by creature comforts like heating and cooling our houses, we hardly can adjust to outside weather.
I really do think we get spoiled by being so pampered. I can never remember a time that Mother or Daddy complained about the heat, and they were always out in it. Daddy always wore a long-sleeved shirt to protect him from the sun, and Mother did, too. We girls wore bonnets or hats and long-sleeved shirts anytime we were out in the sun’s rays. Sunglasses were unheard of in those days, but we did protect our eyes by wearing hats or bonnets for shade.
Back then in the summer, we hoed corn or cotton and it was hot except for a breeze that evaporated the sweat and cooled us a bit. At the end of every row or two, we got to wade in the creek and cool down. I can hardly remember hoeing the corn except when we accidentally chopped down a stalk, we quickly replanted it. A lot of good that did! But Daddy never said a word about it, although I am sure he could see the wilting stalks of corn and knew exactly what we were up to. Anyway, the part I remember the best is the wading in the creek. It was delicious and so refreshing. We always took our lunch to the field and Mother provided enough food for snacks as a reward when we stopped to wade and rest. I remember summers as a pleasant, wonderful time.
One of our favorite summer meals is this simple salad. It is good with crisp crackers, sliced tomatoes, fresh fruit and iced tea.
How do you beat the summer heat? Think about it.
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