Sweltering Summer Days

Our Georgia weather has waited almost until August to get hot. We have dodged the fury of southern summer fun all of June and nearly all of July. Temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, but nothing serious. Maybe a low 90 something. But we wink playfully at low 90s. Then, on Thursday, it happened.

I had to go by the pharmacy at Sam’s Club in Columbus. Beth and Max were with me, so I looked for a small piece of shade in the parking lot where I could leave the truck running and possibly keep them comfortable while I went into the store. Any shade closer than El Paso was already taken. I parked, what my Dad would have called, a fur piece from the store.

I glanced at the temp on the truck console before I opened the door. It was an even 100°.

The first thing that hit me when I stepped outside the vehicle was the blanket of heat from all directions. The asphalt jungle. The concrete city. The sun’s rays reflecting off every surface around me in an attempt to bake me like a pig in an oven.

You know what it’s like to warm your backside up to a campfire on a cool fall evening until it gets so hot that you almost over cook your buns. Bring that final second of intense heat that forces you to move away from the fire to the present day. But the burn is coming from all directions. You can’t move away.

The glare everywhere was intense. I could feel the heat on my feet. I could feel it on my face. I could feel it through my clothes. There was this lady coming toward me through the parking lot pushing a cart. Her face was all flush. Her steps labored. I swear it looked like her flip flops were melting, sticking to the asphalt. Little pieces of flip and floppy flaking off with every step. I hoped she didn’t park as far away as I did.

I paused at the crosswalk while a car passed by. For some reason I thought of standing along the edge of the road in Panama City Beach waiting on traffic to clear so we could walk across on our way to the beach. 1969. Towel and float in hand. Sandals to keep your feet from melting. The heat intense just like in this Sam’s Club parking lot.

On days like this you find yourself hoping for a good old fashioned late afternoon thunderstorm to roll through and knock down some of this heat. The temperature can swing 25 degrees to the cooler side of things with just one 10-minute gully washer of a shower. And it’s great. My shirt gets wet. The air is cool in the breeze. I feel like a new man. It’s great until the sun breaks through and heats it all up again. Steam rising. My glasses fogged up.

We got one of those storms the other day at the tree farm. It was 3:30 in the afternoon. Right around the time everybody is drained down to the last few drops of energy for the day.

I could tell a storm was building. I could hear the rumble in the distance. Plus, Max was about to have a major cardiac event. You know this about him. He’s panting and shaking and pacing. He wants out. He feels like running is the only response that makes sense under such trying circumstances. Poor guy just cannot figure out that the storm is not going to eat him alive.

I leave the office headed out to the barn. We are going to make a quick parts replacement on our aerial lift. It’s pouring buckets outside and I decide that Max would be better off inside. I don’t want to worry about him running off. I don’t want to have to tie him up. I’m too busy to hold him on the leash. So, I left him standing inside the door looking at me through the glass while I walked away through the pouring rain.

Twenty minutes later, one of the guys comes out to the barn where we are working and tells me, “Boy, old Max is really pawing at that door like he wants out. You want me to let him out?” I didn’t think much of it. “Naw, he’ll run off and I’ll have to go looking for him. Just leave him be.”

It was at this moment that the words “pawing at the door” hit me with all the visual imagery from a time past when Max practically splintered our kitchen door at home into little pieces all over the floor during one such thunderstorm. I headed to the office to check on him.

When I approached the door, everything looked normal. Max standing with his nose pressed up against the glass. It wasn’t until I opened the door that the full picture unfolded. First of all, the last time I saw this much blood was when I nearly cut my toe off with an axe in 1979. The door threshold was covered in blood. The bottom of the door lathered in blood. Both of Max’s front legs and paws, normally white, were blood red. There was a trail of blood back through the office, through the kitchen and into the bathroom. The toilet was covered in blood. The whole office was like a crime scene waiting on the CSI photographer.

The main office door, the one where Max tried to paw his way out, is a metal frame door. A large glass panel nearly top to bottom, divided into 18 small panels. Like a patio French Door, which is strange for a farm building, but, hey it came with the trailer, and we went with it. Max pulled the pane dividers off the bottom third of the door. They were chewed up into splinters on the floor. Once he got the trim piece off the door, that gave him access to the edge of the metal frame which is filled with Styrofoam. You would not believe how a dog can bend and twist metal with his teeth. He pulled and gnawed until he cut his tongue. Which is where the Red Sea of blood came from. Thousands of little blood-soaked pieces of Styrofoam scattered over the office.

I don’t mean to paint a gruesome picture. But I was a little in shock at the scene. I checked out his paws. No cuts. No cuts on his mouth. Then I saw this one little bitty slice on the very tip of his tongue. I guess a tongue, human or canine, will bleed profusely. And it seemed to have stopped just as easily as it bled.

By the time I got Max and the door, and the office cleaned up, the sun was out again. That good old summer swelter was beating down like it always does.

So, I suppose we might as well just brace for it. We ain’t even got to August yet.

More heat. More storms. More Max. But hopefully without all the blood.