Sunday, August 11, 2013

Charge Of The White Brigade; Dog Adoption and Umbrella Drinks

I once tried to light a fire in a barrel using gasoline and a match. The gasoline was old as hell and it didn’t smell like real gas at all. So when I threw the match into the barrel nothing happened for a second and I took that one step forward to see what had gone wrong.  The sound of gasoline fumes suddenly catching fire is a sound that is quite unmistakable. WHOOOF! And there I was, without my eyebrows and with the top part of my hair fizzled. I also received some second degree burns on my face for my troubles.

When I started an outside job over twenty years ago I noticed all the old timers wore long sleeve shirts and for most of them it was far too late. Decades of working out in direct sunlight had blasted their skin with enough radiation most of them had odd looking white growths on their arms. “Sun Spots” they called these things and nearly all of them had scars where the growths had been removed surgically and some of them had actually gone to a doctor to have this procedure done.

I went from working on the road to doing land surveying a couple of years later and it was just as bad as far as exposure to direct sunlight for long periods of time. So one day I decided to start wearing more and more protective clothing.  I bought a hat with a wide brim and started wearing long sleeves even in the very heat of Summer. What I discovered is that in a humid environment where there is a furnace in the sky, long sleeves will do you more good than short sleeves. With short sleeves the sweat from your body is blasted away from your skin before it was time to cool you. A long sleeve shirt holds the moisture in and saves it. Trust me, I’ve been working outside and doing yardwork and hiding from the sun for about fifteen years. I know what works.

A woman once told me if she was ever in a house fire she hoped we were still together because I nearly glowed in the dark I was so white and she would just follow the Casper to safety.  “The Whitest White Man Ever” is how a co-worker described me. I even went so far to design a hat that had a flap in the back to keep the sun off my neck and a flap in the front to keep the sun off my face. Of course, this made me look like a terrorist so when I walked into a store one day wearing this get up the clerk nearly shot me without a word. The irony of being killed because of wearing protective clothing would not have been lost on me, in my final seconds.

Anyway, I received an invitation to lie by a pool and drink with a truly intriguing woman and after a decade and a half of living in the shadows I decided to come out into the light. Smartly, I decided to get a little sun before venturing out into Death Valley. The front yard takes an hour or so to mow and how much sun could a man get in an hour, in the early morning? Surely, I thought to myself, I wouldn’t get fried in so short of time.

So, there I was in a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of shorts. I’ve awoken in bed with more clothing on than this. Hell, I’ve had sex wearing more clothes than this, but that’s another story for another time and I was much younger, mind you.

I felt exposed and naked. The native insects reminded me that bare skin is tasty and is good with a side order of blood smeared across the sting area after being scratched. But I was determined to get the front yard mowed completely, before retreating. The Charge of the White Brigade began with good intent. By the time I was half way through the event parts of my body where tingling. This, I thought to myself, is what a vampire feels right before he bursts into flames with a scream.  My back, my head, and my legs, okay, after writing that I realized that covers more body than is left, but those were the areas that seemed to be the most affected. Once done with the yard I took a shower. I had a dog adoption event that I had volunteered for and in the shower I realized that there were areas on my body that were going to have to be covered with clothing, not that dogs care, but trying to get a family to adopt a dog might include me having clothes covering most of my body.

Irony, once again, is amused by my attempts at living.

So it really wasn’t that bad. Okay, it was. I wore a hat and my bald head itched the entire time I was there but that was better than my skull looking like the tip of a match. My shoulders were torched fairly well and at one time a kindly older man clapped me on the left shoulder and I nearly screamed aloud. The two things I have most studiously avoid in my life, strange people and sunlight, came together on a Saturday afternoon and I realize I do neither of them very well.

The idea of more direct sunlight is something that I do not think I can do, pool or no pool, intriguing woman or none. I do not think I did particularly well talking people into adopting dogs but a couple of dogs made their way into families with my help or perhaps in spite of it. I cannot say.

I do feel drained and totally exhausted today.  The same feeling I had from being scorched by that barrel with gasoline in it extended to my body this very morning, and only my eyebrows being intact is different. Yet as overwhelmed as being at an adoption event might be I did feel like I helped in some small way in getting dogs into homes. Into that light I will have to venture into again.

Take Care,



  1. I’m with you, Mike, but keep forgetting to wear a hat when the top is down. Keep saying I’ll put it on after a few minutes, just to warm my brains, ya know.
    Not many years ago one of the local TV stations, on the morning weather forecast, use to tell you how long it would take you to burn between noon and 3 that day. Of course it was a generalization and much depends on the color you already have, and a bunch of other stuff.
    Makes me wonder why they stopped? Did they get sued when someone followed their advice and got burnt? Maybe because it’s become so politically incorrect to encourage anyone to go out with the mad dogs and Englishmen.

    1. Yeah, we had radios stations that had a timer that would let you know when to turn over as you were tanning and that was wildly popular for a while but now it's gone.

      I tell you, Bruce, one hour of direct sunlight nearly killed me. I won't do that again!