Too hot for sissies

Many years ago, as I was about to move from Cambridge, Massachusetts to rural north central Florida, the power steering on my lumbering old Dodge Tradesman gave out. In Levy County, Florida, my destination, sand and muck often substituted for pavement, so I decided it was time to trade in, get a little four-wheel pickup.

“You’re going to Florida?” the enterprising car salesman said. “You’ll want air conditioning.” (A/C wasn’t standard back then, at least not in Massachusetts.)

“I’m no sissy,” I insisted, with an eye on my bank balance.

The old house I bought in Levy County, Florida didn’t have air conditioning either—well, it did, but the bearings gave out about a week after I moved in. Again I puffed up with machismo and, when my parents offered to replace it, boasted that I could take the heat. No problem, thanks.

By the time the furnace died, I had gained respect for the power of Florida heat and humidity and decided to buy a combination unit. And when my dear little red pickup died I replaced it with a truck that had not only A/C but also leather steering wheel and seats that didn’t burn my fingers and fanny.

By the time my parents and husband died, I was living six months of the year in air conditioned interiors. I ran—no, walked quickly—from house to vehicle. (It was too hot to run.) Weeds overtook the garden. Goats got fed by moonlight, when the thermometer dropped to 88. If I took my laptop outdoors to any of my dozen or so favorite spots overlooking water-filled limerock pits, I’d fall asleep writing. Even the deep, shady hammock, with its massive live oaks overhung with grapevine and Carolina jasmine, was so muggy and buggy I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t even lean back and relax for all the mosquitoes and no-see-ums.

Lots of folks thrive in the Florida climate. It’s as if their bodies soak in the heat’s energy, absorb refreshing moisture from the humid air. For me, it’s a heavy, hot, water-soaked blanket that chokes and stifles. When my daughter said come to Ann Arbor, I threw off that blanket and ran.

I am a sissy.

P.S. Here it is, September. Calendars feature pictures of pencils, school houses, and flaming red and yellow leaves. Summer’s over, right? Wrong. Williston, Florida highs are still in the 90s.

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Author: Skipper Hammond

Skipper Hammond was born on the edge of Charlotte, N.C. in a time, in a neighborhood where children were free to play. She and her friends ran, biked, rode, explored and read. The entire neighborhood was their stage for the continuing plays Skipper created based on the stories they read. Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, British and American,Yankee and Confederate armies romped through woods, across fields and creeks, up and down streets until good guys prevailed or softball and hopscotch season arrived.  Then she grew up and went to the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Tar Heel legislators at the time saw no reason to finance economics education for women, but Skipper contrived a major in economics by cobbling credits in business and history. Involvement in a series of strikes by textile workers led to graduate work at Cornell with a masters in Labor Union History and several years of union organizing in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.  After marriage and the birth of her son and daughter, Skipper, then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, worked at jobs where she could punch out—stitcher, machinist, assembly worker, candy maker, database designer, economics journal editor—and still have the energy needed for the real work of political organizing for social and economic justice.  Her political work took the form primarily of writing and editing for movement publications, and when she moved from Cambridge to a farm in rural north central Florida, she began writing for the Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun, then founded the Williston Pioneer, where she was publisher, editor, reporter, ad salesperson and janitor. She also raised goats. She currently divides her time, unequally, between Williston, Florida, where she continues playing in the woods, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she invents stories. 

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