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The sun kisses ...

Philip is a great place to live. The people are friendly and outgoing, life is enjoyable, and most day-to-day activities are relatively safer than in other places. The loudest “gang” is the men’s golf club. Philip’s motto is “Where the sun kisses the earth.” It makes you think of being at one with the land and nature. It is somewhat romantic. Life here “doesn’t have a cloud in the sky.”

This year, at least, that is a problem. We’ve already had several days in a row of over 100 degree weather. Rainfall seems to be rudely passing us by. Even our constant wind has turned nasty, with a Sahara dryness about it. Well, at least western South Dakota isn’t as hot today as it was when my dad was growing up.

Farmers then didn’t dare plant corn; the weather was so hot that the corn would pop in the fields, the heat-dazed cattle would think all that fluffy stuff was snow, and the cows would freeze to death. The chickens were so hot that they would lay hard-boiled eggs. It was so hot that when a vicious dog chased a scared cat, both could go no faster than a walk. Buzzards used sun block on their heads.

People had to go fishing to diminish the schools because the fish were drinking the water before the livestock could get to it. Landowners tried to fence in shrinking stock ponds to keep out water poachers. After a few weeks of heat, traveling teams often stopped, thinking the fenced-in field was a baseball diamond.

You had to be careful in the kitchen when boiling water or else you might burn it. Even ice fresh out of the freezer quickly cooked to a medium rare. It became a practice to take a roast out of the freezer and place it in the window, because everybody liked jerky. There was so little water that you had to eat your soup with a fork and knife.

The only people who made money sold condensed water (just add water). Eating crackers and whistling was outlawed because the ambulance service was already too busy with heat-stroke victims. Water balloons were also outlawed as a waste of natural resources and as “assault with a precious weapon.” The town’s water tower began to bend and warp, like a plastic pop jug that someone is sucking inward. Nobody’s radio worked, because the radio waves melted before they could get very far from the radio station. Tourism dropped way down when the out-of-staters discovered their melting tires were being used to resurface our roads. With the blazing sun, the traditionally black hearse gave way to the newer white ones; with the scorching heat here, people weren’t dying to go there.

The only running water in South Dakota was stolen by the Corp of Engineers so down-river states could “float their boats.” A national disaster was declared and Saudi Arabia offered to send us emergency water. We had to stop our exporting of “extra-long spaghetti” when people found out we were actually shipping dehydrated garden hoses.

My dad and his close friend, Paul Bunyan, both had a way of making today’s heat wave feel not quite so bad. Still, it is hot enough to fry an egg on a new sidewalk.