Possumhaw: Smarter than a hound dog


Shannon Bardwell



"Somehow it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square."


Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1960)




In the middle of the day even cats refuse to go outside. Early and late they lie prone on the porch or under shade trees and watch the birds flit, or listen to the squirrels bark. The differences in temperature between the sun and shade are vast. Animals are smart like that.


"I don't want that dog to be smarter than me," we say often at our house. Like many a family, a point-on statement is made and it becomes a forever family saying. That particular phrase came from Jack Reese of the Sessums community during a noonday chicken dinner fundraiser for the District 5 Fire Department.


Mr. Jack was sitting at small table, collecting money for the dinners. He was sitting just outside the front door of the Sessums community's old one-room schoolhouse. It was the dead of summer and hot as blue blazes. As usual Mr. Jack had his hound dog with him. The dog lay at Mr. Jack's feet until it got up lazily and moved over under a shade tree. Mr. Jack looked down at where the dog had been, then over at where the dog had moved. He picked up the table and with both hands moved it over next to the hound dog. When he did he said, "I don't want anyone to think that hound dog is smarter than me." I think about that when the sun is hot as blue blazes.


Working or playing out in the sun can cause a nasty sunburn, but it can also cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke before you realize it. Sam experienced a case of heat exhaustion a few years ago. At the time neither one of us really knew what it was. He came inside exhausted and not feeling well. He said, "I'm so hot. I'm going to take a cold shower."


Afterwards he said he didn't feel much cooler so he lay on the couch and fell asleep. Later we learned he was lucky. He had a case of heat exhaustion. We've heard a few other stories in the neighborhood of folks having heat exhaustion. Some more serious than Sam experienced.


With the Fourth of July coming up plenty of folks will be outside enjoying the holiday. Temperatures will be high and heat indexes predicted to be in the 100's. There are some precautions you can take to avoid heat exhaustion, such as wearing light-colored, loose-fitting lightweight fabrics. Drink fluids like water, sports drinks and anything without caffeine or alcohol, which only dehydrate the body. Snack on something salty to retain fluids. Take your time, move slow, wear a hat, carry a "sun-brella," sit in the shade. It's a great excuse to take it easy, and don't forget Mr. Jack's hound dog.




Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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