This week’s weather conditions began with a very summer-like feel. Mid to upper 90s Fahrenheit, 45% to 60% mid-day relative humidity with typical Great Plains sunshine and wind. These kind of days are when I switch my thermometer from Fahrenheit to Celsius. Somehow 35C looks much less scary than 95F. It’s funny how some numbers on a thermometer can affect one’s attitude. I just wish I could measure relative humidity in metric scale.
I had thought about some yard work on Sunday. I grabbed a broom to sweep the driveway. Immediately I was hit with the hot, sticky air. After just a few minutes of sweeping, I was dripping wet and feeling flushed. I wondered why I hadn’t settled in western Nebraska where humidity is much less. Better yet, the mountains of Alberta. Dream on.
The prevailing southerly winds of eastern Nebraska carry the humidity from the Gulf of Mexico to our doorsteps. The ways that this gulf air interacts with the northerly air, low pressure zones, high pressure zones, warm fronts and cold fronts make for interesting, uncomfortable and often treacherous weather.
Lucky for me that I was wearing some comfortable cargo shorts and a lightweight tee-shirt. I would be able to come into my little house and switch on a fan. If it got too warm, I could flick a switch to activate the central air conditioning. The fridge contains plenty of ice and cold water for refreshing drinks and some beer for any guests who might stop to chat.
I enjoy trying to imagine lifestyles of years gone by. Photos and paintings help my meandering mind.
Only a few decades ago, in the middle of summer, in the torrid Southern states, people wore full outfits. A businessman would sport his summer dress slacks, button down shirt with necktie and a fedora on his head. He might even be wearing a suitcoat. He would drive to his appointment in his non-airconditioned sedan. He may or may not have a Thermos jug of something icy to drink. Women might be dressed in a similar manner. A sun-dress, sensible shoes and some sort of hat.
Even as recently as the early 20th Century, people of both genders wore encumbering swimwear. This is where we get the term “swimming suit”. They were nothing at all like today’s bikini and Speedo swimming attire. I don’t even want to post a photo of today’s gear for fear of being tagged as an adult website.
I remember going through a museum and seeing the civil war military uniforms. Both Yankees and Rebels wore woolen tunics and trousers. Those were accompanied by caps and heavy boots. I can’t imagine trudging through a steamy Georgia swamp in the middle of summer carrying all that plus a weapon and ammunition. Just to do that would be harsh enough, but to be ready for battle at a moment’s notice would be next to impossible for me to to. I don’t even want to imagine it. No wonder the war was so long and bloody.
Even if you didn’t wear woolen coats in the summertime, there was no refrigeration for instant, ice cold drinks. There were iceboxes that used stored winter ice for cold. Delivered by the iceman. I’m not sure what the rural folks did aside from evaporative cooling. Much less what field laborers and slaves did to relieve their thirsty, unpleasant misery.
To eat, somebody had to do the cooking. There were no microwaves for fast, efficient preparation. All meals had to be prepared the old fashioned way…that’s all there was, a hot wood or dung powered kitchen range. Imagine standing in front of one of those all day in a kitchen without even an electric fan. You’d be dressed in a floor length, full coverage housedress, as well.
I guess I don’t have a whole lot to really complain about, do I?
The Blue Jay of Happiness still hasn’t figured out which is worse, the heat or the humidity.