“Never felt heat like it kid..”; my grandpa would reminisce apropos of nothing. It would always be Summer and we’d be sweltering as a family out on the porch trying to catch our collective breaths and there’d be grandpa reassuring us that this ain’t so much hot today as cool.
Even though the mercury was doing its darndest to top 90. “Man, that ain’t no kind of temperature not leastways till it gets past a hundred and just stays there”. he’d always accompany this utterance with a usual expectoration of chewing tobacco effluent.
And I suppose and we’d all suppose that he was right. well, kind of. Him and his whole extended family upped sticks and trekked there way over here to California all those years ago. Because of The ( capital tee) Heat (capital aitch).The furnace that was the Dust Bowl.
By chance, or maybe as one of my Aunts contended, by some grander design, one of my many distant cousins came by to visit one day. She’d finished her journalism major up at Berkeley and had just gotten a commission to produce a series of radio documentaries on the Dustbowl, and was wondering if grandpa might be interested.
Turned out, none too surprisingly that he was and naturally that put the spring back into his step.
We taped them all, all the episodes and down the years, on big family occasions, we sit around and listen to grandpa’s voice, reminding us all. There’s one or two passages that our Cousin edited as an introduction that kind of sums up Grandpa and ” The Heat “
“Sure I recall, clear as day all the names and their faces, those times and their places,
Down at the rundown rail depot from where the last westbound left in that dry-cracked goodbye summer with me and my closest kin on board.”
In another passage suffused with his inimitable cadences, he recalled ” Days were so hot and dry that water was our heaven
and the wells coughed their grinding choking echo. Dust was going to be our future, had we stayed”.
“Some folks never left, they remained In those places and their times. I recall, some years later seeing in the newspaper and county archive records all the shrouded names and their faces who waved me off down by the rail depot in that dry-cracked summer when the westbound whistled its goodbye.”
And when it came to saying our farewells for another year until the next Thanksgiving or Christmas, we’d switch off grandpa’s voice and notice just how hot the tape machine had become.