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Dog Days


Paul Hord


I am not a fan of the summer season.  This is for a variety of reasons, the primary being the heat that we all suffer through from living in Texas.

My opinion of the summer season has changed greatly as I have aged.  As a youngster and teenager, the summer season was the best of the 12 month cycle.  The beginning of summer meant a break from school and three months of freedom to do what I wanted.  I grew up near water, either a river or a lake.  Therefore, I spent most of my summer days fishing, swimming, and water skiing.  Of course, once I became a teenager, most of my days were spent working, either mowing yards or working at a local ice house to earn a little money.  Of course, I still had time in the evenings for my recreational activities.  Even back then, once early August came around, I always sort of looked forward to the beginning of the school year.  Even though I wasn't ever a huge fan of school in those days, I yearned to get back to some sense of normalcy or structure.

For whatever reason, I don't remember hating the heat when I was young as I do now.  I grew up in Texas, so this should not be something new to me.  And despite the growing concerns of the Greenies in D.C., I don't buy into the notion of the Greenhouse effect, that we're experiencing more droughts and that the icebergs are melting away and that the oceans are getting larger.  I personally believe that's all horse manure.  I'm no scientist, but history has proven that there are cycles with weather.  There were severe droughts hundreds of years ago before gasoline or hairspray could escape into the atmosphere.  And there have been summers that have been milder than others.  But overall, summer in Texas has got to be the closest thing to Hell.  As I've grown older and my interests and activities have changed, so has my love for the summer season.

Being an educator probably doesn't help my displeasure for summer.  During my early years as a teacher, yes, I absolutely looked forward to summer because it meant a break from the classroom.  Any teacher will tell you this.  But even then, I would try to find some activity to fill my free time, a part time job, a new hobby, anything.  Graduate school took up many of my summers for a few years, which was good.  But that's
all done with and I have zero desire to go back for any further education.  Nowadays, I'm no longer a teacher, but a school counselor.  For a few years I spent some time working as a principal where I worked all summer long.  I would get a couple of weeks off in early July and I enjoyed working throughout the summer in preparation for the upcoming school year.  Then I went back to being a school counselor and had more time off during the summer.  When I was a principal, my wife and kids had grown accustomed to my work schedule.  The first year I went back to being a counselor, I really enjoyed that first summer with more time off.  But for the last couple of summers, I've yearned for the upcoming school year to get here a little more quickly.  I now work summer school through the month of June to help myself cope with the summer season.  It's only in the mornings, but it helps to get me through.  I realize this sounds weird, but it's part of my prescription for coping with summer.

It probably doesn't help that I tend to like to do things outdoors.  If you enjoy doing things outdoors, then you probably hate the heat as well.  Swimming pools are even ruled out in late July, as they become vats of boiling water during the middle of the day.  Even when the sun disappears, the heat doesn't go away with it.  It can be 10:00 at night and still be 95 degrees with 100% humidity.  The July and August months are just bears in Texas.  We are basically just stuck inside our homes as we listen to the air conditioner continuously run and watch our monthly utility bills skyrocket.  And then, if you want to keep the grass in your yard alive, you have to commit to the investment of watering daily.  There is the occasional summer where we might get a nice shower each week, but that is more unusual than usual.  Keeping your grass green means that you are going to have to pay more green.  During the summer of 2011 when things got really dry in Texas, I just gave up and let the grass in my back yard die.  I kept the front yard alive with daily watering because it was small and visible to my neighbors and visitors.  My backyard turned into a dust bowl.

My wife, Roxane, is also an educator.  Our schedules match with our kids’.  This can be good and bad. 
There are times when too much time spent with the same person or people can wear on one's nerves.  This is normal human behavior.  We all need our breaks from one another.  The same is true with family as well.  The one benefit is that it is very easy for us to take summer vacations out of the state of Texas, away from the heat.  Colorado is a great place to visit.  This summer we will head out to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.  These summer adventures are intended for recreation and great family memories, but the ulterior motive is always to escape somewhere away from the Texas heat!


Another thing I hate about summer in Texas are the weather reports.  I'm
sure the weathermen hate summer as well because it requires them to have to come up with things to talk about to fill up their time slots on the evening and nightly news broadcasts.  Summer weather is so predictable that there is nothing to report or predict except more high pressure, heat indexes of 110 degrees, and the occasional 10% chance of rain due to some gulf moisture that might move north our direction with the ocean breeze.  And then there is the summer haze.  I'm not smart enough to know what causes this haze.  It looks like smog in Los Angeles.  But this haze is connected with intense summer heat.  On any day in July or August, you can look out across the horizon and see the haze.  I get depressed when I see the haze.


I'm a huge sports fan.  I follow most sports closely, especially those teams that I'm partial to.  I enjoy it.  For me, it's a hobby.  My kids are also involved in sports as well.  They play soccer and basketball and additionally, my son plays baseball.  Summertime is dead time for sports.  Once the College World Series and NBA finals are finished with in mid to late June, sports enthusiasts find themselves in the absolute most depressing time of the year.  There is professional baseball, but that's about it.  And nothing exciting really ever happens in professional baseball in July.  Baseball only begins to get interesting in late August.  I pass the time as best I can by reading every prognosticator report that's out there on professional and college football to get fired up for the upcoming season, but that generates only so much excitement.


Yes, July and August are the dog days.  I was curious about the origin of “dog days,” so I looked it up on the Google thingy.  Apparently, one of the brightest stars called Sirius is brightest and most visible during the months of July and early August.  The Romans called Sirius the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest in a constellation called Canis Major, which means large dog.  The Romans associated the heat with Sirius and thus called the period of time during which it was the brightest and most visible, the “Dog Days.”  The Romans believed this period of time was evil, when the sea boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and creatures became languid.  The Romans blamed this all on Sirius so they did what all primitive societies did when they were trying to settle down mother nature:  they sacrificed something.  In order to curb the heat, the Romans would sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of each July.  I wonder how that worked out for them.

So, I find myself at the end of June, preparing to dig in and hibernate to make it through the dog days.  I might try to pick up a new hobby or something to help pass the time.  I'm preparing myself for astronomical utility bills and hazy days.  I plan to watch a lot of baseball and hope for a few cloudy and rainy days.  Maybe the high pressure thing, whatever that means, will disappear for a while.  Who knows, I might even sacrifice a dog.