That’s after leaving Wichita in 110-degree heat yesterday afternoon. When I stopped briefly at Cawker City, the heat had been joined by a blast-furnace wind. Nobody on the street, not even a dog. I couldn’t blame them. Under such conditions, you worry about your hair spontaneously igniting. I got in the car and drove on as the sun sank into a smoky haze.
I kept waiting for it to cool down and it finally did around twilight — to a more temperate 105. That’s not a joke. In the small towns I passed through, the ones with a Pamida at one end and a Dollar General at the other, a few folks were finally hobbling out to drag sprinklers around their tan lawns. Futile, of course. This is no weather for lawns, nor for old men either. That sucking sound you hear is the Ogallala aquifer just saying to hell with it.
This morning I started early and watched the haze thicken in the distance until it had risen halfway up the sky. Soon the temperature was back up into the triple digits. At a little museum in Nebraska I told the old guy I was from Florida and that I’d come north to escape the heat. He laughed. I asked if the smoke was from the Colorado fires, but he said parts of Wyoming and Nebraska are burning too. And now Montana. I think I foresee a Fourth without fireworks in the land of my youth.
Oh well. I guess it wouldn’t be a Western road trip without smoke in the distance turning the sunlight orange somewhere along the line. Even that seems kind of nostalgic. As a younger man, I spent a few seasons fighting fire with the Forest Service. I kind of enjoyed it, then. But that’s another post.