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Hartselle Enquirer

Dog days of summer

There’s no way to escape the dog days of summer. They arrive in mid-July every year and hang around for the better part of a month. Typically, temperatures range from the mid to upper 90s to low 100s Fahrenheit. High humidity can push the heat index to 110 degrees, and infrequent pop-up thunderstorms offer little comfort to sufferers.

Therefore, heat advisories are common. Healthcare workers advise us to limit our exposure to the sun and heat as much as possible. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of liquids, take frequent breaks in a shady area or an air-conditioned building and watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion. Fortunately, most workers today conduct their jobs in a climate-controlled environment and are able to rest comfortably at home thanks to air conditioning.

That is a lifestyle rural families knew nothing about in the 1940s and 1950s.

Our family lived in a six-room frame house, partially shaded by two large oak trees in the front yard. Air circulation was limited to the opening of windows and doors. Hand held cardboard fans were available, and we had the luxury of an oscillating fan to help lower the temperatures in the dining room while meals were being served.

Getting a good night’s sleep was next to impossible during dog days. Four boys shared one bedroom. Two double beds were pulled together in front of a single window. Each one claimed a small share of window space, and we fanned out our bodies to keep from touching each other. We’d lie still begging for the smallest of breeze to flow through our tiny window and watch for glimmers of faraway bolts of lightning, embracing the hope for a rainstorm. On the hottest of days, we’d fetch a bucket of cool water from our spring and wet down the floor of our front porch. After the water drained through the cracks, we’d put down a pallet and stretch out and drop off to sleep. When the floor got too hard for comfort, we’d dash back to our beds.

I don’t recall that dog days raised a public health issue when I was growing up. Almost everyone I knew was engaged in farm work that had to be done in a timely manner. Perhaps we were better conditioned to withstand the humidity and heat of summertime.

Now that I know better, I’ll take an air conditioned room over 100 degree outdoor heat anytime.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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