In the comic strip Shoe, the young owl is sitting at his school desk taking a test. The quiz question is: “Name all the senses.” He writes this answer: “Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste and humor.”
Who could survive without a sense of humor? “Our sense of humor helps us bear the unbearable,” says southwestern historian C. L. Sonnichsen, “and offers escape from boredom on the one hand and from pressure and stress on the other.” In the midst of our record-setting temperatures and drought, a sense of humor is a necessity.
A story that makes me chuckle in this relentless heat is told in Tales of Old-Time Texas, by folklorist J. Frank Dobie:
One time during a terrible drought, a mover heading east stopped his team in front of the courthouse at Belton to water. The team consisted of a brindle-legged blue mule with long whiskers and a dun ox with a drooped horn.
While they drank, and a speckled hound that followed the wagon lapped, and a woman on the wagon seat took a fresh dip of snuff out of a brown Levi Garret bottle with a hackberry toothbrush, a man moved over to the wagon from the shady side of a store facing the courthouse square and remarked, “Sorter odd-mated team you got there.”
“Maybe so,” the driver said, looking by habit around the sky to see if he could detect a cloud. “You see, it’s this away. It had quit raining in the Aberline country before I filed on a section of land out there. I had a pair of mules, but one of them died. Then I traded off a quarter-section for this ox so I could pull out; but the d… fool I traded with couldn’t read — and I got the whole section off on him.”
Then there’s the story of the west Texas rancher with a house full of children. One September night in the midst of a drought, he begin throwing handfuls of pebbles on the roof. When his wife came out and asked what he was doing, he explained that he was breaking the kids into hearing something fall on the roof so that if it ever actually rained, they wouldn’t stampede.
It’s been so hot on my own roof that I haven’t even heard the pitter-patter of the squirrels in more than a month. And if anybody tries to pawn off their parched land on me, I’m not taking it unless it includes the mineral rights!
I have to laugh at myself because for all my complaining about the heat, there’s a crazy part of me that revels when we get one day closer to the record. I guess I want to earn a T-shirt proclaiming that I survived the awful summer of 2011.
In the midst of drought, we can pray, trusting the grace of our Creator to provide. While we wait for the heavens to open, we can work to conserve our land and water and help our fellow creatures, great and small.
And we can look for the humor in life. Laughter is good medicine for parched souls!
John Paul Carter’s “Notes from the Journey” appear in the Democrat’s Religion page on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. Carter, an ordained minister who attends Central Christian Church, may be contacted by writing him at 107 Bent Oak Road, Weatherford, 76086.