David Lauderdale

Keep on the sunny side of searing summer heat

In the far reaches of Minnesota, they sometimes refer to temperature as "above" or "below."

I know because we once had a sports editor from Minnesota. We called him "Sven." One day when I whined that it was 30 degrees, he smirked: "Above or below?"

That was Sven's way of saying it wasn't even sweater weather. I never knew there was such a thing as "beloo," as he called temperatures that plunge below zero.

But right now we would all welcome a stiff blast of "beloo." The "heat index" hovering around 100 degrees seems to be sucking the very oxygen out of the Lowcountry. It has been replaced with a smoky substance authorities assure us is nothing but a little second-hand wildfire smoke rolling in from out of state.

We're suddenly not feeling as high and mighty as we do in the winter. We have such mild winters in the Lowcountry that we laugh at the rest of the world as it freezes.

We gloat that "you never have to shovel humidity."

We revel in old jokes. Like the one about the Lowcountry preacher who went off to a preachers' convention and was asked how the soul-winning business was going down here. He replied that it was not going well at all. Surprised, his fellow preacher asked why.

"It's so pleasant in the winter, I can't get them to think about heaven," the Lowcountry preacher said. "And it's so hot in the summer, none of them are afraid of hell."

Now nobody's laughing. When the dog days of summer arrive before the last Fourth of July firecracker fizzles, we're the ones whimpering in the corner. I'd wave a white flag, but I'm too busy mopping my brow with it.

Years ago, people were better equipped to deal with this kind of heat.

They quit work in the middle of the day. The whole town closed early on Wednesday. When it got real hot, the county courthouse would close altogether. Families packed up a boat and went down the river to camp in the breeze. Others left for places in the mountains with soothing names like Highlands. Houses had porches. Ladies had hand fans. Men had seersucker suits. Children squirted each other with a hose. And nobody did anything foolish, like get in a hurry.

These days, as we crouch by the air conditioner, I'm reminded of what Sven's grandfather told him about all that miserable weather "beloo" zero: "It keeps the riffraff out."

So keep on the sunny side of our scorching heat. At least it keeps the riffraff out.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.