Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Is Coming. Shit! It's here!



Of the four days I had off for the three day weekend, I spent two of them outside doing yardwork. The heat was bad, but not nearly as bad as I have known it to be, and Sunday night wasn’t really that bad, but I did do more sweating than sleeping. Even when the windows open and the ceiling fans cranked it was still warm. Very warm. Monday night was even worse, and as I tossed and turned I feared all the sweat leaving my body would eventually dehydrate me and I would die. It’s happened before, I’m certain of that.

I grew up in a world without air conditioning. It was never “too hot” because the climatic conditions were simply what they were. If it was one hundred degrees and you had to work outside all day then you worked outside all day. If it was eight-five in the house at midnight then you slept through it. People had lived for thousands of years without complaining about the heat and we knew damn well no one could afford air conditioners. What of it? The sun rose and the sun set. It was hot and it was less than hot, but the world kept turning and no one burst into flames and no one died from the heat. The whole world of South Georgia sat under the same sun t always had and there was nothing anyone could do, or thought to do, about it.

The first apartment I lived in that had AC, I was thirty-four years old. I suspected I wouldn’t use it very much but one hot day lead to one hot night and I eventually got used to the idea that other people, and by other people I mean women, liked AC. The same person who had worked under the sun when he was a younger man found himself sitting on the sofa drinking beer, watching television, and sucking down the nice cool air being forced from the vents.

Back in ’98 I was thirty-eight, and I was working with a guy who was nineteen. We were outside and it was hot, really very hot, and the guy on the radio told us that it was one hundred and five degrees. The young man made the mistake of asking me if we could go sit in the truck, because it was so very hot. I told him if he could do more push-ups than I could then we would pack it up and go in for the day. Fifty pushups later he was spent. I knew he would be. He had grown up inside a house with the windows closed most of the time, with a color television in his room, and no idea what it was like to work in the fields. I breathed this stuff, back then, I absorbed the worst that South Georgia could throw at me, and I laughed. And even at thirty-eight, I still had enough of my native immunity not to fold. The young man finally broke and found a ride back in while I stayed out in the heat.

The heat index soared up to 112 degrees a couple of years ago and I walked an abandoned road for a walking path. The ground held a layer of thick heat filled air and the low brush trapped it there. I covered my face with a piece of cloth held in place by my hat. The pace spoke to me, four miles an hour, and I held it for an hour, four miles, and then I hit the road to pick up some speed. Fifteen minutes later I realized the asphalt of the road was likely twenty degrees warmer than the air and I had to call someone to come get me.
The decline is obvious and age takes its toll on everyone.


Still, there’s a certain enjoyment in that sort of heat. You can feel your entire body when you’re in it. Every square inch of your skin expands and weeps sweat. Hit the trail and feel the rivulets of salt water trickling down your legs, your back, and into your eyes. Your body becomes a machine lubricated on the outside. Boots are soaked from the inside out. Breathe in the heat, accept it as your atmosphere, embrace it as the fish does water, and move with alacrity. Your pulse rate climbs with the mercury. And the fourteen hours of daylight that Summer brings will slam tons and tons and tons of searing heat down upon the ground in the most direct form of radiation you can feel on this planet. Not even shade can protect you from this. The moist air holds the heat and forces in into your no matter where you try to find solace. This is South Georgia and the heat is South Georgia. I grew up in this. It belongs to me.


Monday night I turned and tossed, and Lilith pawed at the back door to get out of the house. I let the dogs out, except Tyger Linn who stayed on the bed, and it was cooler outside. Not by a lot, but enough to make the ponies and Lilith Anne want to be outside rather than in. Then they barked for an hour at something and I made them all come inside. The thermometer told me it was eighty-five in the house at four in the morning. The air was as still as Death.

Last night I finally kicked the AC on. The cool air poured out of the vents like a benison and Lilith slept with all four legs sticking up at the ceiling fans as if that was the require position of prayer, to the Gods of Cool Air. Last night no one wanted to go out and when they did go out them all came back in at one time.

There really will be break in the heat until the last part of September, if then. Another three and a half months of this before there is a break. I need to start heat training. I need to breathe fire again.

Take Care,
Mike


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017: Remember Viet Nam.





If you never had the chance to speak to a veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War Two, don’t worry; most of the men who fought there never spoke about it very much. The ground war in that particular part of that particular war, especially that fought by the United States Marine Corp, went far beyond the pale in brutality and horror. It was a horrible, grinding, and lethal series of battles where there was no mercy, no compassion, and few prisoners taken.

The next conflict in Korea for a war that has been more or less forgotten by most people, except for MASH reruns. Yet 37,000 men died there in just over three years or so. We did not win nor did we lose that war, it was a simple holding action that got a lot of people killed. That region has yet to recover from the war, and we still have people in uniform over there.


I did, in fact, have several opportunities to speak with veterans of the war in Southeast Asia. We started out trying to prop up the government of South Viet Nam, after we helped partition the country, bombed the hell out of a major city, Hanoi, and then we invaded Laos and Cambodia.

Estimates are that we killed over one million people in that war while we were there. We left a devastated countryside and destroyed infrastructure behind, as well as a large population of children fathered by soldiers, and a great many people poisoned by Agent Orange. Each year we maim hundreds of people, and kill a dozen or more, with left over land mines.


When veterans returning home from the wars of World Wars I and II, were greeted, they saw parades and parties, confetti and fanfare, honor and respect.

Veterans returning from Nam were called “baby killers” and they were spat on.


No less than any of our men and women in uniform who have fought in any war, anywhere, at any time in the history of this nation, the veterans of the war in Viet Nam fought bravely, with distinction, and with honor. No less than any other group of men or women in uniform, these men fought bravely, and they went not because they wanted to go, but because we, as a nation ordered them to go. We elected the politicians who created that war, and we, the American public, instead of turning on the men in office who wore suits and told lies, turned on the men in uniform, who sacrificed their lives.


I have to say that here in South Georgia these men were honored when they returned, at least by the common men and women. I have to say my family never turned their backs on the men who served, ever. I have to say that even before I wore the same uniform as some of those men, I still respected what they did even if I thought the war as wrong, horribly wrong, and there were men in office who should have been dragged out of their homes and hung from lamp posts for it.


So today, Memorial Day 2017, I want you to remember those men who served in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I want you to remember some of them never returned. I want you to remember their courage, their sacrifice, their commitment and dedication to this country, and I want you to remember they came home to a lot less than any other group of veterans who ever fought for this country.


If enough people remember these men, maybe we’ll never have to feel the burn of shame for the way some people treated them, and the way the men in suits hold office, turned their backs on them when those men returned home again.

55,222 men died in that war. I want you to remember them today.


Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won. May 2017

I should have started mowing a month ago and now it’s late May. I should have mowed a week ago, after it rained so much, but I didn’t. Now it’s a jungle out there and I know damn well this is going to be a very long hard slog through knee high weeds and small trees. Primarily, I have Bahia Grass, which is a tough, drought resistant and prolific grass. It is also wiry and hard to mow when it is long or high. It sends up a tall shoot that splits into two tassels, and it’s hard as hell to cut.

I’ve had these out in the yard for about three weeks now. This is going to hurt like hell.


The same 22” push mower that was in the shed for the last nine mowing seasons is still there. Last year, it cranked up on the first pull, imagine that, but this year it doesn’t even wheeze. I’ve got a lot of money out at this very moment and cannot afford a new mower and I can’t wait another week to get this one fixed. I am no one’s mechanic.  I know enough about eternal combustion engines to keep gas and oil in one most of the time. There’s fuel going into the carburetor, I can tell that, and the spark plug is older than any dog that I have right now. I might get lucky and get out of this with a two dollar part. I doubt it, but still.


Two hours of daylight have gone missing since I awoke this morning. It’s going to be hot before I begin and I know it. There’s the chance I won’t mow today at all and that bothers me, that I might have to buy a new mower, because this one has been a good one. It is ten years old. I wonder if they still make good solid push mowers anymore?

There’s two bored teens working the parts story early Sunday morning. They’re not happy to be there and who can blame them? The male tells me I’m the third spark plug for a lawn mower he’s seen today. I also get the last one of its kind, the one I’m looking for. The female tells him he needs more pennies and trades him two rolls of pennies for a dollar. They exchange a glance that lasts long than the transaction suggests it should and suddenly the guy catches me watching. Yes, I will be on my merry way, and good luck with that job site romance thing.

What to do if the spark plug doesn’t help? I can open the mower up, start replacing parts as I recognize them, maybe spend another few bucks if I can get the part, but then what? How much to spend? How little? Goats? Alpacas? I’ve got tomorrow off so I’ll go mower shopping if it comes to that, and I think it will.



Summer is here. The humidity is a violent thing, even at ten in the morning. I give the rope a few pulls and nothing, not even with the new plug. There’s a certain amount of idiocy here. I prime the engine, I pull the rope, nothing happens, and then I repeat. At what point does a rational human being understand it’s dead Jim and move on to random part replacement or trying to decide how much money to throw at the problem with a new mower?


And on the eleventy-billionth pull, the engine roars to life.

There’s a right triangle that’s formed by my neighbor’s fence and that part of the driveway that leads back to his hunting lodge. It really isn’t that big but for reasons I have never been able to explain, that is where the grass is always thickest. At this point it is where the weeds are thickest. I start there and the going to very, very, very, slow. I lift the mower up, mow the top of the grass, put the mower down, mow the rest of it, and repeat. I should have done this in March. I should have done it two weeks ago. I should have bought goats. The going is slow. I section off parts of the right triangle and the mower roars over the grass and the grass is shorter, eventually.

An hour drifts away like the dust the mower is kicking up, and usually an hour will do it but I’m not halfway there in an hour. I have to refuel the mower. Sweat is beginning to form creeks down my back and down my legs. The gnats were bad but I think the dust got to them. Another hour and I’m still mowing the front yard but the going is less intense and less snailish.



The backyard. It’s hard to describe my backyard without using a metaphor that involves artillery. There is a bunker complex that would make a World War One vet go into flashbacks. The weeds make it look like Viet Nam during rainy season. I get started on the back and have to refuel. I am out of gas in more ways than one. I have tomorrow off. I can finish this thing then, I suppose.



My clothes are covered with sweat and dust. My body feels oddly lubricated, as if I am covered in a layer of both liquid and a fine solid that forms an oily mud slick. But the Mowing Season has been kicked off. I won’t need a new mower quite yet but I’m going to have to start looking around.

I fought the lawn and the lawn won.


It’s going to be a very long hot Summer.


Take Care,

Mike