In the Heat of the Day
In the heat of the day, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, says the poet. Cows, apparently, are a lot smarter. At least they stay in the shade. If there's a tree anywhere in the pasture, they find it. Any tree in the pasture, the shadow of the tree is filled with cows. I mean filled with cows, solid cow. They're so dense, you couldn't walk between them. They look like overripe fruit that just fell from the tree. We used to have pear trees, huge old Bartlett pears, and in August the fruit on the ground was so thick you couldn't walk under the tree without squashing fruit every step. In the pastures in Texas, we have cow trees. Over here we have a Hereford tree, and there an Angus tree.
Strangest of all, in front of one public building on one very hot day, we observed a most peculiar sight. There was a flagpole in front of a building, and the shadow of the flagpole was filled with grasshoppers. It was two or three in the afternoon, clear sky, deadly sun, 108 degrees as I recall. We were driving around looking at sights way out in the country, anything we could see without getting out of the air conditioned car. In the courtyard of some public building or other was a flagpole on a concrete pedestal, and its shadow fell across part of the pedestal and onto the ground around it. There were about a dozen grasshoppers lined up on the shaded side of the pole, down the bottom few feet, and straight down the shadow to the edge of the pedestal. The were all facing exactly the same direction, the ones on the pole looking up and the ones on the concrete looking toward the pole; and all of them in the shade trying to stay out of the sun. I don't blame them.
Extremely weird Texas extension of this thought. The 35th anniversary of the U.T. Texas Tower shootings was the other day. One woman who survived the shooting recounted to a reporter how she hid in the shadow of the flagpole in the plaza for hours. Well, not in the shadow, exactly. Around her people were being shot by the dozens. She stayed pinned down behind the flagpole where the shooter couldn't see her. She couldn't see the tower; he couldn't see her. Saved her life. Smart. She passed the Evolution 101 test: survive.
What are window screens for? Well, up Noath, in the lands of woods and fens and ponds and swamps, the window screen has a clear purpose: keep the bugs out. And out West, in San Francisco and environs, they don't bother with screens because they have no flying bugs to keep out. A positive proof point and a negative proof point, so QED, right? Nope, not here.
Here screens have numbers associated with them. Are your screens 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s? One might well ask! The number is related to the percentage of sunlight that does not get through the screen. On the sunny side of the house this can make a real difference in the quality of your life and the cost of your air conditioning. We recently changed the screens in the master bedroom, which faces slightly north of west, from 70 to 90, and the room is noticeably cooler in the summer. Dimmer, however. (For you photo bugs, that's like putting a 3-stop neutral density filter on your lens.) But that's the tradeoff, no? There are battles over the technology used in these sun-screens, some new higher-tech ones said to be darker but clearer, easier to see through. At least it keeps the marketeers employed.
Also, there is a big business in tinting the windows of cars. "Maximum Legal Tint!" scream the signs at little garage shops all over. The max that's legal -- I'm gonna get these numbers wrong -- is 70% on the rear window and back-seat windows, and 50% on the front-seat side windows. None on the windshield. Well, none beyond the tint put there by the manufacturer. I'm sure that this tinting really makes a difference in the summer temperature of the car just as it does in the house. I haven't had it done, largely due to laziness, even though it's relatively inexpensive, about $150 to $180 and only a few hours labor.
Of course you see lots of cars with tint way beyond the legal max, but they're just small-time criminals. I am reminded of some parody detective or spy flick in which a car with completely black windows tries to run down the hero in an alley, and misses completely even though the hero doesn't move an inch. The car smashes into a dumpster and blows up. The hero shakes his head and mumbles, "Too much window tint."
Pity the poor longhorn steer: all that pizzle but no sizzle.
Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, Richard Ball Landau. All rights reserved.