Don’t Tickle the Dragon

Hot! Hot! Hot!

The first time I remember hearing this song I was somewhere near Sitka. Men in shiny gold pants were singing and dancing to Hot! Hot! Hot!  I think that was the night they set the desert on fire.

This 3 minute clip (from You Tube, not from the flaming desert night) isn’t exactly lyric rich. You’ll get the idea after the first 30 seconds.


Hot! Hot! Hot! sounded so much more appealing on a climate controlled cruise ship to Alaska than it does in Smiley, Texas where every day is a hundred and something. Yes, I do know y’all have it worse down south and over west and maybe even up north. But for a Yankee who has rarely ever experienced triple digit heat – maybe one or two days per summer, this seems pretty toasty.

You know the ban on laser pointers near airports?

You may be arrested

Laser users are frequently arrested for aiming at airplanes or helicopters.  And as authorities take laser incidents more seriously, they are putting more effort into finding perpetrators:

Photo-illustration from
BBC News article

I get that now. The sun comes up in the east here, just like it back home. But here it comes up like a giant laser pointer (a red one, not the green kind), targeting Texas. My little point and shoot camera doesn’t do it justice. The sun doesn’t rise up with a soft orange glow, slowly spreading it’s light and warmth. It races up, bright red and instantly, insanely, intense.

At first I thought it was apocalyptic. Now I get that that’s just the way it is in Texas.

We’ve reached the point in the summer where most folks down here have gotten tired of talking about the weather, except the weatherman, who has to and who says the same thing every day. I misspoke a few posts ago by quoting a San Antonio’s weatherman. Apparently, here in Smiley we’re going on day 55 of triple digit heat.

The heat makes everything a little blurry

It does give us all a healthy, if semi-radioactive looking, glow. Three minutes outside and my face takes on a cheery hue. Every where my t-shirt touches my body has a suspicious dark cast.  That’s partially due to the ice cubes I occasionally put down my shirt, but mostly I manage to spot and blot all on my own.

When I get significantly overheated, I talk to myself, out loud (not good) saying things like:

I’m so hot I feel sick at my stomach.

Really? Sick at my stomach?

Sick of my stomach. Well, yes.

Or maybe sick in my stomach?  Sometimes I say sick to which doesn’t really make sense either. But sick at my stomach? I can be mad at something, but can I be sick at something?

When the rancher asked me how I was handling the heat, I said just swell (looking at my ankles). He said it gives a lot of folks a headache. Well, there is that. I’ve had one for so long I forgot that my head used to feel un-achy. He offered a cure.

This is a cow aspirin – which might have cured my headache, but I suspect would have led to other discomforts. The worst part is, I think I’m beginning to acclimate. I just checked the 7 day forecast: 102-103 each day, and I found myself feeling happy, thinking:  Only 103, that’s not bad! Sad…

If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon. ~ Caroline Schoeder

Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

~Creedence Clearwater Revival

Do you remember this CCR classic? I was 13 when Bad Moon Rising hit the charts in 1969. If you follow Fork, you know that I really love the moon (Good Night Moon, I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me etc…).

As a gate guard, working the night shift, the moon is my friend. Or so I thought.

To establish the setting, after 7 days in Smiley, my alien giant botanical plants continue to flourish. The temperature had finally dropped from 106 to a ‘cool’ 91 just after midnight. In this particular part of Texas it’s really humid, unlike up in the panhandle. The Lantern 17 guys who just moved down from there are really struggling with the humidity.

The moon is full and beautiful right now. The coyotes seem to engage in nightly ritual of approach avoidance behavior. The barking and howling comes near and then stops. A little while later, faintly in the distance, it picks back up. Stops. And then resumes, very near again.

Adding howling and humidity to the heat makes caliche clogging a little less appealing than I may have made it sound, although it is more practical, logistically, than Pole Dancing or Zumba. When the temperature dropped again to a cool 88 degrees around 1:30, I decided to get my clogging in early.

The last of the guys were back on site from their pilgrimage to the small WalMart and H.E.B.  in Gonzales. The coyotes were doing their distant howl so the timing seemed right.

I stepped outside and headed toward the gate. One at a time, these giant alien plant forms began to bend over and then rise back up. At first I thought I was just imagining it as I stood, transfixed, staring in the moonlight. Then they began to bend in pairs. Disappearing and suddenly springing up as the next set bowed.

It would have been a little less disconcerting if the motion had been one of retreat. But just like in a horror flick, whatever it was, seemed to be on a course that would end with me. At that point, having emotions that ran stronger than my curiosity, I began walking backwards toward the RV. I’ve seen Little Shop of Horrors. I know to never turn your back on animated plants.

When I backed into the little wooden table and Harvey, the not invisible Pooka, rattled to the ground, the plants froze in place. I left Harvey to keep his lateral sentinel watch, slipped (literally) into the RV, locked the door and explained to Henry that the door would remain locked until dawn so there would be no drinking from the water bowl on full moon nights between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m.


Pray for Rain

Everywhere you look, the buzzards are circling. Not a good sign. I’m afraid to stand still for fear they might mistake me for something dead and delicious.

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.  ~ John Updike

We’re getting precariously close. Today is officially our 35th straight triple digit day. According to one of the ranchers at the second-hand grocery store, in the ten or so miles between Nixon and Smiley, we’ve had 2.4 inches of rain in 11 months. Another said that’s an exaggeration – 2 tops.

I passed the chicken houses on my way to the post office. They’re silent except for the constant hum of the giant fans. The drought is hostile to all but my alien foliage.

In Austin, only watering by hand is permitted during the day under current Stage 1 rules. The next stage would further limit watering to once a week, shut down the city’s fountains and allow water to be served in restaurants only upon a customer’s request.  Water bills are running as high as electric bills for Austin residents, prompting the city utility service to initiate a summer extended plan.,8599,2087489,00.html#ixzz1UhAo3Hui

There’s nothing left of the fields but dirt. Even the cactus are dying. Three summers ago, I left a city underwater. Cedar Rapids is still struggling to recover. I don’t know what it will take for Texas to recover. The ranchers said they’ve quit praying for rain. They’re praying for a hurricane. They said  that may be the only thing that can save them.

I’m not a Texan. My own daily gate guarding life is a little hotter and a little dustier than it would otherwise be. An inconvenience, not a devastation. But you can’t live in a community of people, even temporarily, without your heart breaking for their suffering and their loss. If you’re given to praying, would you pray for rain?