Friday, July 16, 2010

Ridgebacks in a dry and arid land

            Yesterday afternoon the sky darkened and the wind whipped the trees in my backyard.  I checked the weather.  The temperature was 100 degrees but thundershowers were expected.  A storm was coming toward us from the south.  I walked into the back yard.  The wind lessened the effect of the heat; so I decided to go to take the girls to the river.  I hated the idea of not being able to go down there until the weather cools off in October.

            By the time we got to there the wind had died.  I checked the tops of the trees as I parked and they were dead still.  I decided to walk to the other side of the river and get up on the service road.  It is higher than the river so if there was any breeze it would be sure to hit us there, but when we got there I couldn't feel any breeze at all.

            Well, I thought, if this wasn't to be an enjoyable adventure in high winds I could at least make it a test.  We were at the river on an extremely hot day.  Perhaps we could handle it.  Perhaps we didn't need to wait until October.  Perhaps we could go down there in the late afternoons of our hot months.

            The insects attacked us enthusiastically.  There was no waving them away.  I sprayed my head and arms with Ben's 30 Wilderness Formula and then I sprayed the girls.  They have never liked being sprayed with insect repellant, but they stood quietly and let me do it this time. 

            There was no relief from the heat.  We breathed in hot air.  I was prepared to turn back if the girls showed any discomfort but they seemed fine, running down into the river from time to time to check the bushes.  If it looked like they were eating anything I flung stones near them to get their attention and yelled for them to get back up onto the service road.

            I decided to limit our round trip to about 70 minutes.  That would be a respectable work out on a cool day, if the girls had a chance to chase a few rabbits; who yesterday were probably all down in their burrows where it was cool.  Typically we would stop half way and have some water before we turned back.  Sage would invariably take very little.  Sometimes she would be so interested in other things in the river that she wouldn't even drink, but she was different yesterday.  She thirstily drank her share and would have drunk more had I poured it for her.

            On the way back Ginger was the first to show signs of being affected by the heat.  She lay down on the service road.  She only needed a few seconds -- or else she discovered that the road was too hot to lie on -- in any case that was the only time she tried to lie down.  Sage never actually stopped or stopped checking bushes on either side of the service road.  She easily kept pace with Ginger who lagged behind me.

             I stopped frequently to look back at them and could see in the distance beyond them a thunderstorm coming with flashes of lightning.

            At last we got to a good place for climbing down off the service road and headed back toward the Jeep.  I saw that we'd be going through a new pile of junk.  I normally rage at the river junk, but the heat had sapped most of the rage out of me.  I saw the familiar face of Edgar Allan Poe lying on the ground.  I picked up the book which looked in better condition than my recently purchased copy of John Cheever's short stories.  Inside the front cover was a stamp indicating the book came from the "Lib/Media Center, Middle School, Junction City, Kansas." Is that where these junk-strewing slobs came from?  Had they filled Junction City so full of trash that they needed a new town to befoul?  

            Another stamp identified the book as "7th Reading Level" and a third read "10th Reading Level."  What did those latter stamps mean?  I lost my copy of Poe long ago and wouldn't mind keeping this one, but not if Poe's stories had been dumbed down for Junction City retards.  The book took my attention off the heat and almost off the Junction City trash the rest of the way back to the Jeep.   I could see no evidence that it had been bowdlerized. 

            Later, back in the cool of my study the girls lay panting on the floor while I took a shower.  The shower helped a little but my head throbbed and I felt a bit queasy.  The girls finally quit panting but they didn't appear to be peacefully napping.  They missed their normal dinner time, but I wasn't going to feed them until they were ready.  Several hours later Sage came up to me and indicated that they were ready.

            In evaluating our "test," I concluded that we had failed.  Hiking in 100 degree heat with no wind was probably more taxing than was good for us.

            This morning I read the New York Times Article, "Arid Australia Sips Seawater, but at a Cost.": .  Australia barely has enough water for the 22 million people that live there.  Analysts predict that the population will rise to 36 million by 2050 so the Australian government is building desalination plants to be ready for them.  Not all Australians are happy with this plan.  Some think that 22 million people quite enough for that arid land.  Others think that rain water can be captured and waste water recycled more efficiently.  Visions of Herbert's Dune come to mind. 

            The writer of the article wrote, "Until a few years ago, most of the world’s large-scale desalination plants were in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, though water scarcity is changing that. In the United States, where only one major plant is running, in Tampa Bay, officials are moving forward on proposed facilities in California and Texas, said Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association, based in Topsfield, Mass. China, which recently opened its biggest desalination plant, in Tianjin, could eventually overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader, he said."  

            Desalination plants in California?  We could use a few in Southern California.  Australia thinks 22,000,000 people quite enough for their 2,967,909 square miles.  California, on the other hand has 43,473,597 people living in only 163,707 square miles.   Of course these lands were not created equal.  Californian has more advantages than Australia does -- perhaps even more than Japan which has 127,430,000 people living in 145,925 square miles.  I just wish that the new arrivals would quit dumping their junk in my river.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lawrence, I enjoyed the vignette of you and the dogs on a hot night in the urban wilderness. I say 'urban,' because it's rare to find Poe and Cheever in the wild——although who knows?——there are probably dozens of copies of Paradise Lost at the Everest Base Camp.

In the 1980's we had a Bouvier; they're large, sturdy dogs with tough, protective coats which allow them to stay out in the cold and guard sheep and cattle, although these days there's really not much for them to do except sleep on their owners' beds.

We then had two Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, the oldest of whom died in 2008, at the age of fifteen years and six months. Wheatens have abundant, silky coats, and they do well in the cold, but do not thrive when the temperature nears 80. Then they mostly lie on the cool tile floor and zone out.

I'd imagine Ridgebacks, because of their origins would do better in hot weather than would most breeds, but you and your dogs seem to have a healthy sense of prudence.