WOSTER: The old way of life not better or worse, but maybe more sensibleIt’s perhaps a sign of how devoted we are to boating that Nancy and I toyed with the idea of going up on Lake Oahe last Sunday even though the branches of the trees outside the family room were whipping back and forth in the obnoxious breeze and The Weather Channel’s local report said 100 degrees and 33 mph gusts of wind.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
It’s perhaps a sign of how devoted we are to boating that Nancy and I toyed with the idea of going up on Lake Oahe last Sunday even though the branches of the trees outside the family room were whipping back and forth in the obnoxious breeze and The Weather Channel’s local report said 100 degrees and 33 mph gusts of wind.
Matter of fact, we went so far as to climb into her car and drive the loop out of Pierre along Highway 1804, across Oahe Dam, back into Fort Pierre on Highway 1806 and across the Missouri River bridge to home. The size of the white caps, even on the channel under the bridges, made me wonder if the weather folks weren’t trying to minimize the strength of the wind. All I’d have needed to see would have been Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel holding a microphone and leaning into the wind, and I’d have thought we were in the eye of the latest named storm of the season.
We got home, put the car in the garage, splashed some water at the base of a plant we’d moved from another place in the yard the day before and headed inside for the air conditioning.
That summary of my Sunday contains several sub-stories about what a different world I inhabit than I did as a kid. Even the business of watering a plant newly placed in the soil near the garage is an illustration of how I sometimes ignore nature, climate, weather and common sense these days simply because — well, because I can, and sometimes it works. The point is, a stretch of days — weeks, really, the way the long-range forecast looks — of temperatures at or above 100 degrees with frequent, moisture-robbing winds and not a snowball’s chance of a good, soaking rain in the foreseeable future is not a good time to be planting, replanting, transplanting or even trying to keep alive anything that needs moisture.
A Sunday with triple-digit temperatures is not the sort of Sunday during which the old-timers would have planned a totally unnecessary outing on the river. My dad and my uncle would have combined wheat if the crop was ready and in danger of being lost, sure. They did just about anything necessary on the farm, whether it was the summer’s worst heat or winter’s coldest freeze. Generally speaking, they didn’t do it just for fun.
For fun, they’d have stayed inside if there was no real need to be outside. They wouldn’t have had air conditioning, at least not when we were living on the farm. They’d have survived without it, being a little smarter than I am. That meant not leaving doors open for a moment longer than necessary, keeping the shades drawn and the blinds closed throughout the day, opening the house wide at night to collect any random bit of cool breeze that passed through the windows, then closing things up tight at just the right moment — a second before the temperature outside grew warmer than the temperature inside. They used a thing that wasn’t but could have been called whole-house, hands-on climate control.
It must have worked, for the most part. I recall some nights when sleep didn’t come quickly because of the heat, but sleep came eventually — and I didn’t know it could be any other way.
Thinking on it, there was a time when I wouldn’t have entertained the notion of boating when the wind was forecast above 30 mph. I didn’t have to drive up there to see for myself the size of the white caps. I’d seen that before. The first boat we owned, in fact, would have fit nicely in the troughs of some of those waves, before it disappeared under the surface.
I have a bigger boat now, so naturally I think I can venture into bigger water. I can, but that doesn’t always mean I should. My dad used to say four-wheel-drive works best if you stay out of places where you need it. I guess you’d say he appreciated modern inventions but deeply respected the natural order of things.