March Slice of Life No. 28
It was the summer of Mt. St. Helens.
We were living in Arlington, Texas – then a small town situated between Dallas and Fort Worth. By early June, a high pressure ridge had formed over the Midwest, refusing to be budged, swathing us in layers of heat.
By mid-June the mercury in thermometers was racing over 100; it topped that mark for a total of 69 days that summer. Sixty-nine days — that’s almost seven weeks!
The mercury’s high point was on June 26th and 27th when it pushed to 113 two days in a row.
For 42 consecutive days (that’s right, 42 days is SIX WEEKS, beginning on June 23 and continuing until August 3) the mercury got stuck over 100 – day and night.
At least 1250 deaths were directly attributed to the heat that summer. It is listed in records as one of the great natural disasters suffered by our country.
They say we broke 29 heat records that summer. Many of them still stand at the time of this writing.
It was during this heat wave that the following incident took place.
“Not yet. It is still too hot,” I responded for the umpteenth time.
My three children had been pestering all week to go bike riding. But I had stalled. It was too hot. I’d rather float in our pool.
But they persisted. And I had promised we would today.
Evening came and the temperature dropped one degree as the scorching sun lowered itself in the sky. Excitedly the three mounted their bikes.
They knew the route.
There were no busy streets to cross.
They were off.
I followed behind reluctantly.
I was sitting tall on my bike trying to catch the full effect of the air moving over my body, hoping it would offer some relief from the heat. I deliberately rode under the low branches of oaks, mulberries, and pecans that lined our streets.
Suddenly something wet hit my bare arm. It had a cooling sensation. Then I felt the sudden drawing up of my skin as it dried. What?! I looked down. Splattered on my bare arm was a very large blotch of white tinged with greenish yellow and a bit of purple. Yuck, it’s been eating mulberries, I thought.
I braked, hopped off my bike, and hollered for my three little bikers. They turned around and rode back to me.
I held out my arm, “We’re going back.”
A volley of rapidly fired utterances followed.
“But we waited all day…. “
They became resourceful–
“Here. Wipe it off with these leaves…”
“Wipe it on the bottom of your sandals.”
“It’s dry so can’t you wait ’til our ride’s over?”
“We waited ALL day.”
“It’s going to be too late.”
I ask you, my reader, What would you have done?
Many summers have come and gone since that evening — the evening a bird on a branch targeted me and I aborted a promised bike ride. The memory of that evening has not faded. It is a tale often told, a tale passed to the next generation. There is no redemption for me.