By Jim “Pappy” Moore
Summer is officially here, and with it an old-fashioned East Texas heat wave. It’s “hotter than a chicken in a wool basket,” as one of my departed icons – W.I. Capps – used to say. He was born and raised a country boy who knew hard work and hot summer days.
We are having a week where the weather gets up to 100 degrees every day. That’s hot! It wears a person out. I try to stay inside as much as possible, getting my daily walks in early and late, when the sun and the heat are not such a factor.
Into my seventh decade as an East Texan, I know more than my share of local colloquialisms and quaint sayings. As the summer heat beats down the air conditioners in June, July and August, we always hear “Is it hot enough for you?!”
I’ll admit such sayings annoyed me as a youngster. Some older guy would usually make the comment almost as a throw-away comment, something to fill the airwaves for a moment.
My favorite East Texas sayings are ones that require both persons to know their lines and say them appropriately, to wit:
“How you doin’?”
“I can’t complain.”
“Wouldn’t do any good if you did.”
Sometimes the rejoinder is open-ended, as when the first speaker says “Lord, the rain we’ve been having.” This can be answered with almost anything. “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another,” is hands down the favorite, though.
Speaking in sayings is a form of localized communication that avoids such topics as religion, politics, or personal finances. No one wants to hear “well, my wife left me, I hate my job, and my credit card debt is out of control,” when they say “so how are you doin’?!
“Well, I’m just fine – and how are you?”
Like Robert Frost’s poem about how good fences make good neighbors, formulaic sayings spare locals talk that is simply too personal to have with someone you’re not very close to. It allows us to be friendly, to speak in accepted code, and to convey the most important thing – a friendly, courteous attitude towards those with whom we interact.
We talk about the weather most frequently when we attempt to pass the time. It’s often raining too much or too little. We’ve got the harsh heat in the summer, and the sunny days of December. We’ve got chilly but not terribly cold weather most of winter.
We say “don’t like the weather, wait – it’ll change soon enough.” In fact, our weather is very predictable if we watch the weather satellites. The weather systems that mix and interact to cause weather in East Texas are so fascinating to watch develop on Doppler radar, which I check many times daily. The hot Gulf air consistently works its way inland as cooler air flows down from the mountains and across the plains to East Texas. Like two gangs of vastly different air, the Cools and the Hots mix it up in our skies. We get to see the lightning, the funnel clouds, and the rain storms they produce here.
As I get older the heat takes more out of me, but the cold seems to get in my bones more. Now I know what the old timers were talking about way back when. Those joints do ache.
When the weather is hot, or cold, or rainy, or dry, we talk about it, usually in sayings that keep our thoughts on climate. As the summer wears on, just remember, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.