he air of thick humidity is like the air of impending doom. Persistent, dreadful and overpowering. It makes your nerves scream for solace. Yet all you get is the sensation of a fresh line of sweat beginning to role, in a tortuously slow bead, down the middle of your back.
Humidity hangs like the clumps of Spanish-moss draped over and smothering the whole plot of live oak trees in the back yard.
Stringy, clingy, sticky, itchy… and thick. I can hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it… and by the sweat dripping from my armpit – hate it.
And to think it’s not even daylight yet.
Oh, what a way to begin a day.
Well, that’s how they’ve begun in the deep south for … I guess since the dawn of time. It’s not changing now, ’cause it’s not changed in all those eons of time. It’s just one more thing about this area you just learn to deal with.
One more reason to dislike living in the south.
Hmm, that sure sounds a might ‘Yankee like‘, now don’t it!
I gather fixings for coffee and listen to hear the clear voice of the mockingbird as it mimics through it’s repertoire of songs. From one solitary bird, I hear the voice and chatter of every bird sound it has heard during it’s short but melodious lifetime.
I don’t need a couple of dozen birds flittering around the yard, I have them all in one: my mockingbird. With a half-dozen mockingbirds I’d be enjoying a whole forest of song birds and not have to deal with the sparrow crap that covers my car each morning: no matter where I park it.
I hate sparrows.
The incredulous fool who brought those filthy little waste buckets over here from England -’cause they missed their melodious little songs. Yeah right! I’d like to stake him over big ‘ol fire ant mound; sure ’nuff!
What a stupid act of imbecilic short-sightedness that was.
On the same par as the ‘too smart’ conservation folks back up my way, in the mid-west, who promoted the planting of an Asian prickly bush called the multiflora rose all over the place. In the name of conservation, touted to be grand ground cover; for anti-wind erosion and extra places for the critters to live. Only problem, the stuff took over!
Seems the ‘too smart folks’ forgot to tell the birds not the fly around and shit the seeds all over the place. Where it grows – and that’s just about anywhere – nothing else can grow or go! Now the ‘too smart folks’ have to pay other ‘less smart folks’ to dig it up and threaten to fine and jail ‘other folks’ if they dare plant it again!
The birds still eat the berries and shit the seeds, so the problem still exists. Why didn’t they just plant the native blackberry bushes? Sure both plants are prickly as all get out. But at least with blackberries there’d have been berries both man and bird would have enjoyed!
Short-sighted for sure.
It seems no matter what we humans decide to bequeath this land we take for granted, we end up doing it more harm than good. The meddling mess-ups, we so nobly refer to as natural resource management, are painfully well documented. It just doesn’t seem anyone in charge ever bothers to read the results. Doesn’t anyone see a connection? Well, don’t they?
I guess not.
But of course why should those poor bastards start using their heads now? What could they possibly accomplish if their actions were actually accompanied by a dash of common sense? Not likely they’ll begin to think to change their current patterns of failure. As it will not likely add one more stitch to the lining of their already over-stuffed, greedy pockets.
Breakfast is over and I just can’t stall the inevitable of the day: cleaning out that cotton patch.
Backbreaking work. It’s hot. It’s dirty. And it’s a bit dangerous in ways people not from the country, nor used to workin’ cotton would think of.
The shade of the cotton plants offer the local rattlesnakes and cottonmouth, in those areas near the river bottom, a cool, shady place to wear off the afternoon heat. A reptilian encounter is not what I need today. I don’t need it any day, but I really don’t need it today. I’m in a mood. A mood where I’d likely kill something and I don’t really like killing snakes.
Not that I mind killing something that needs or deserves a good killing, but snakes tend to do a lot more good for the land- and in turn me- than most folks given them credit. So, I’d just rather let them be and go on my way.
But blast-it! anyhow! Those fool-headed varmints won’t just let me pass, regardless of my intentions. They coil up, ready to strike and just dare me to blast their little pea-size brains all over the cotton stems. And sometimes I accommodate them.
But I still don’t like it.
Well it’s almost time to hit the field. I’ll give it a bit more time; no sense in being too, pushy with the time now.
I like that about the south.
Folks here move to a much slower clock than those who live north of the ‘humidity line’. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I grew up with humidity in the Midwest, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with humidity – ’cause I am, familiar! But humidity in the south, well- now… we do it with a whole new vigor toward torture. I just don’t like it… humidity that is.
I really don’t!!!
I don’t like being hot. I like even less being sticky and hot in a dusty, dirty place. ‘Cause when you work in stuff like cotton, you end up feeling like half the junk from the field is stuck to you before you get home. That’s what makes the humidity so bad. You just can’t escape it. And you can’t escape the dirt, either. Humidity sucks. No two ways about it. But cotton humidity? Well, that stuff’s just plain nasty.
I’ve been covered in all kinds of hard work humidity, but cotton humidity is about the nastiest of all. ‘Course I can’t say that with complete authority. I never worked anywhere farther south than these cotton fields of the 31st parallel. As hard as it is to imagine, humidity in the real tropics has got to be worse than it is here.
It just plain hurts to imagine that much humidity.
But I reckon, in all fairness, I got to.
Looking out across the pasture I see those crazy cattle egrets are dowsing for ‘hoppers, crickets and whatever bugs and critters they can gobble up as they sachet across the pasture.
Now, there’s one funny critter: the cattle egret.
Down here, most folks call them and their taller relatives, the white egret, great blue heron and it’s white-color phase, pond skoggins. I don’t really know where that name came from, but it’s not a term-of-endearment. Of that, I am very sure.
Those things make a wretched sound. Sorta like a feller chokin’ on his own blood, as if he’d just had his gullet slit. Nasty! An awful sound. Scares the daylights out of most normal folk.
But… they do keep the ‘hoppers, crickets and critters cleaned out of the fields. Odd, they don’t seem to have a fancy for the boll weevil. Now that’s a shame. Cotton could use a friend in that category.
I’d better get-to- gittin’ on down into that field, ’cause on the horizon, just above that cotton patch, I see the build-up of a huge ‘ol thunderhead. Looks like we might get some rain after all.
It’s been a dry season; dryer than normal. Maybe this high humidity will be worth it’s torture if we get a good rain.
Maybe. However, I’m not totally sold on that notion yet. Reckon I’ll let it on the table.
Think on it.
Judge it later.
It’s time now to go clean that cotton patch, sweat a river, dodge the snakes and watch those pond-scoggins chase the critters in the pasture.
I’d best not forget to watch out for that new electric fence line, neither.
Cotton Humid by Les Booth. eLithograph giclee print on archival 90# watercolor paper. Print run of 100 only. Short-story, printed on matching paper, accompanies prints 5-20. Available as extra item.
Available through the OOAK Gallery.
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