Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dog days

The heat of July was upon us. It was steamy from morning to night and through to the next morning. The sun was high in the sky and cooked any creature that ventured out. The goats lay prostrate in the shade of the barn, moving from the west side in the morning to the east side in the afternoon. 

And the dogs and cats lay as flat as they could on the kitchen floor, or under the shade of an apple tree if they were one of the outdoor cats.

The people hid in dark corners with their library books and drank gallons of water, or they sat on the basement steps where somewhat cooler air could be found.

The mosquitos filled the twilight evening and stirred up the steam with their buzzing. We had to put winter jackets on to milk so we wouldn't be eaten alive and drained of every drop of our overheated blood. Only our hands stuck out into the buggy air - there was no other way to milk. The goats' tender udders were covered with bites, and as soon as their heads were freed from the milk stand headholder, they whipped around and bit at the new welts.

By the next morning, with the overnight temperatures finally lowering to the high 80s and the sun rising early and sizzling, a new generation of flies was out waiting for us in the barn. We had to cover the milk pail with a paper towel to keep them out, and while we milked they buzzed our ears and bit our necks. We had hung fly tape above the milk room and in several other places in the barn, and each strip was soon blackened with fly bodies, but with no breeze - and there was no breeze - a black cloud hung stationary and nastily around us.

We waited through the days and hoped for a thunder storm that might signal a change of weather but at least would cool us a bit. Heat lightning flashed above the trees from some distant luckier town but never came closer no matter how long we looked at it and longed for it.

Day after day the heat hung on us, unstoppable in its flow from the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of Maine. No mountains rose in between to stop it.

But two young creatures roused themselves at the end of each day, even in the persistant heat, and shook off their lethargy. The beagle boys were ready for their nightly hunt, and who knew what raccoon or neighbor cat was waiting for them! Their eager noses began to twitch at sunset, and by dark, when we were all dashing in from the barn with our itchy hands and full buckets, they were ready for their nightly run.

Off they went, only the white tips of their tails visible, and then only their yodels audible. 

When they came back, called in at the last minute before we went to bed, their bellies heaving and their tongues heavy, we made sure they had a bucketload of water each. They flopped down and went to sleep, their legs still running the woods. 

And we flopped down on top of the sheets and spreadeagled and tried to think comfortable thoughts. Soon the sun was up again, the buzzing began, and we searched the sky for clouds. And there were none. The dogs slept...

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