Sunday, August 8, 2021

Indian Summer by Cora Leland


Indian Summer

Cooler Temps Are Just Around the Corner

by Cora Leland, Author

Believe me, August in the Kiamichi mountains of southeastern Oklahoma is HOT! My little sister described it best.  “It’s so hot it’s scary!”

It’s nothing like Aspen, and more humid than Florida.  Compared to Little Dixie, I found the Papago Desert of the southwest to be delightful.  (I might have exaggerated – slightly – about the humidity.  Usually, we sweltered at just over 70 % humidity. With 40 days/year with temperatures over 100 degrees, a person needs a little hyperbole!)

Nor was our ranch reminiscent of Big D.  Oh! How we dreamed of our long-lost centrally air conditioned home and the ice cream truck’s cheerful music tinkling down the alley.  The sun could blaze away at 95 degrees; humidity could hover at 74%.  As luck would have it, my family had plunked down in an air conditioned world.  For people fleeing from the Dust Bowl or the still-shattering effects of the Great Depression, Dallas was a haven.

Our new home in Dallas

Forget the showy green mountains of Clayton Lake or the winding rock paths of Beaver's Bend.  Our ranch staggered up and down mountainsides composed entirely of rocks, roundish stones and square boulders.  An intelligent horse and good cowboy boots were a necessity (the horse to cleverly choose which rocks to avoid, which way was best; boots to avoid rattlesnake bites, or water moccasins in the creeks).

But nowhere topped Little Dixie for Indian Summer.  It was a swift interlude before winter’s ice storms – and much colder temperatures.  Most of us hadn’t bothered much with insulation or good heating. As long as the chinks between logs were caulked, we’d survive.  So to us, those ice storms brought unpleasant changes. Not just my father’s deer antler collection dangling from the outdoor rafters, but laundry frozen stiff minutes after we’d hung it to dry. No heaters, even the gas ones properly installed, kept us warm.

My mother had an unshakable theory:  snakes, insects and rodents (including tarantulas) were driven indoors, too.  It’s hard not to snicker over the horror-struck, civilized city folks from northern Oklahoma when they visited us.

Tulsa's historical downtown district

 But I’m afraid I gloated over our indoor plumbing.  My older sister, though, accepted it like 'who on earth could live differently?'.  (Most of our neighbors had those ‘4 rooms and a path.’) At any rate, we loved the peacefulness of Indian Summer.

Why was Indian Summer peaceful?  A break from the ruthless glare was high on my list of memories.  Lower temperatures?  Sure.  Those temps had been nightmarish.  I still gauge a location’s hot weather by how my body feels when I touch an arm. Does the skin feel hot when I touch it? Do I feel feverish? Literally cooking in my skin? If I touch my face, does it have that stale water feel?  And my forehead.  Is it ‘clammy’ too?  And of course near-nausea.  Indian Summer put the brakes on all that.

Indian Summer wasn’t something we could prepare for, like Thanksgiving.  We couldn’t exhaust ourselves baking pumpkin pies or making cranberry sauce (two kinds:  one with cranberries, the other without).  We woke up one morning to Indian Summer.  A sudden calm withdrawal from temperatures humans weren’t build to endure.  We’d done nothing.  It simply arrived, graciously relieving us. We’d sit back and accept.

Sifting through my memories, it’s hard to describe Indian Summer.  Frankly, I’d much rather rely on my recollections of that time than launch into a lot of lectures and statistics (which do validate my conclusions.  Here’s a link.  I was surprised to see that New England claimed an important part of my growing up. I’m not sure that Little Dixie was even mentioned.)  But despite being ignored by the ‘authorities’, I celebrate this season – and all the others of my growing up – wherever I am.

I hope you’ll accept my heart-felt offering.  Indian Summer will be soon be arriving.   And those better times will keep coming – for us all!


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