THE SUMMER SUN

Huddie William Ledbetter was a black musician in the early part of the 20th century. He came to be known as Leadbelly, and he wrote gospel, blues, folk songs, and other types of music, all of which have a haunting and distinct style. But Leadbelly was perhaps best known for his chain-gang songs, since he often displayed an angry temper which frequently landed him in trouble with the law. As a result he did some serious jail time in Southern prisons during which he usually had to work on chain-gangs throughout the year. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment which is supposedly banned by the 8th amendment to the Constitution. In any event his experiences in doing hard labor led to some great folk music. The opening lines of perhaps his best chain-gang song goes as follows: “Look over yonder, hot sun turning over. Look over yonder, hot sun turning over. And it won’t go down, Lord, it won’t go down.” Which is kind of a long way around of getting to the point of discussion, namely the hot sun during the summer months here in Las Vegas.

For 9 months out of the year Las Vegas weather is usually mild and pleasant. But from about mid-June thru mid-September, the temperatures sizzle, the sun blazes down with unyielding intensity, and if you have to spend any considerable amount of time out-doors, especially in the afternoons, you’ll like feel a lot like Leadbelly working on the chain-gang. Because it’s a dry heat, when temperatures are still in the low 90s, one can usually get by without using air-conditioning. But once temperatures reach the upper 90s and then plunge directly into the 100s, the a/c is cranking away for the rest of the summer. July and August heat usually settles in at temperatures of between 105-110degrees, but can, and often does, reach heights of 112-115 degrees, sometimes for extended periods. Very unhealthy levels. If you go to the store or a restaurant during the day, and have to leave your car parked in the sun, you’ll be entering an oven once you get back in the car. Over the years, there’s been more than a few cases where parents have forgotten that they left their infants in the car when going shopping, only to return and find the most tragic of consequences. Other acts of stupidity resulted when people brought their pets with them, and left them in the car, broiling in the sun, with the same deadly results.

Those on the right are continually demonizing illegal aliens. But here in Las Vegas, where almost everyone that owns a house, especially seniors, has a gardner that monthly tends to their landscaping, who do they think is trimming their bushes and blowing the leaves out of their yards. Certainly not native citizens who would rather go on welfare then get out in the sun in 108 degree weather. It’s virtually always illegals, as  all of us know by the fact that they often can’t speak English. In our community, besides individual homeowners having their private gardening service, there’s a landscaper the the development hires to take care of the common areas, and who has people out there working almost every day of the year. The workers are all illegals. Who would do this work if we suddenly shipped 12 million undocumented workers back to Mexico. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the word “hypocrisy” is not in the vocabulary of the denizens of Right-Wing Looney-Tunesville.

When we first moved to Las Vegas, many a-moon ago, we would sometimes get relief from the heat through afternoon or evening thunder storms. At times there would be a heavy deluge, where more than 3 inches of rain would come pouring down in less than an hour. Las Vegas at that time didn’t have a sewer system capable of handling such deluges, so lakes would form at major intersections, bringing traffic to a grinding halt. Waves would form in these lakes, and one could literally go surfing. When more than one motorist drowned during these episodes, the city got serious and went on an expensive binge to build an adequate sewer system. Just about the time that they finally finished, the entrenched drought that we’ve been experiencing clawed its way into our year-round climate. Now there isn’t even the hint of a thunderstorm. Each day  sees clear, blue, cloudless skies with a burning sun and no relief. I literally cannot remember the last time we had a decent rain. It’s as if, once we built the required drainage, the universe decided to give us the middle-finger.

Because of the lack of water, the ground here is like solid rock. I think that one could more easily dig through an 8-inch concrete block, than dig a hole in the yard to plant a bush. Yet, somehow, certain shrubs and trees seem to thrive in this rocky soil. Desert plants they call them. Like the sumac trees we have in our backyard that were shorter than me when planted, but now tower over our roof as well as the roofs of adjoining houses. Olive trees also do extremely well as do cactus shrubs. I don’t know how the roots can spread in such hard soil, but somehow they do. There is also a thriving wildlife, at least in our development. We have a wide variety of avian life such as quail, ducks and geese that like to hang out in the small lakes we have on the golf course or in the common areas. We also have a large contingent of rabbits as well as tiny bunnies that bounce around the development like tennis balls, after the rabbits give birth. And because of that we have our share of predators. Besides snakes there are coyotes and bobcats that feed on the rabbits. With water from the lakes, and plenty of available bunnies to eat, what’s not to like.

And so the summer heat and the broiling sun are upon us once again. For relief, we can always go to restaurants and casinos, where air-conditioning is blasting away at sub-artic levels. This often necessitates taking heavy sweaters with us, especially for the seniors set, to put on when coming from the outside heat into in the in-door frigidity. Don’t think the irony of that goes unnoticed.

 

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