Those of us that live in Arizona wear the summertime like a mule does a loaded pack. But once we survive another one, we feel like we’ve earned braggin’ rights. We tell summertime stories like old men do fishin’ ones.
The problem is our memory loses clarity after eight months.
For me, there’s not a summertime that goes by and I don’t relive the ones from my childhood and rough and tumble years.
Sometimes it’s the scorching summer breeze that forces my eyes to squint that pulls me back down memory lane. Other times it can be an ice-cold drink of water I pour down my throat. Funny how good water tastes when you desperately need it.
The thing that causes me more past summertime reflection than anything else is seeing other people cope with the intense desert heat. I can spot a heat stroke like Sherlock Holmes does a clue.
Being in the construction industry has given me an up close look at people who toil in the kind of heat that can kill folks. I respect the toughness of people who not only survive, but thrive, despite the angry heat. It reminds me of my days in the desert.
I was pulling out of an auto parts store parking lot when I spotted the truck. I notice struggling and poor people. Once you’ve lived that life, you can almost smell it.
The old red Ford pickup was a beater. It had a busted out rear side window that was duct taped up with plastic. The body of the small-sized pickup was hammered. The hood was raised, the universal sign of mechanical problems, and the skinny kid with filthy hands, T-shirt and shorts, stood beside it. The work truck was loaded with landscape debris and a ladder.
I stopped as I was pulling out and watched. It was hot, about four o’clock past the middle of a nasty June. Sitting in my ice-cold air-conditioned car, I glanced at the digital thermometer dashboard read out. It was 117 and rising.
I watched the kid with the scruffy brown beard. I knew exactly how he felt in an instant. I’ve walked the miles in that kid’s dirty tennis shoes.The kid had a wrench in his hand. Then, without the luxury of coveralls or an old blanket, the kid scraped his way under his truck that was broken down outside the auto parts store. Even tanned skin sears like meat on a grill through T-shirts in Arizona parking lots in June, July, and August.
My heart went out to the young kid who was out working and trying to eek out a living.
Those are the kind of things that make or break people. You either decide to be okay with that lifestyle or you do something about it, despite the harsh environment.
I thank God it wasn’t me under that broken down truck in the summertime anymore… but I wouldn’t trade my days having done it. Some of the best things we ever get, are the things no one-handed us.