Special Interest Tyrone Daily Herald Archives

Lifes Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

Twenty or so years ago, I remember my mother telling Walzie and me, “Gee whiz, I feel so bad for you guys living way out there in the country with no air conditioning.” One would think we lived in Iraq or the Sahara Desert instead of Warriors Mark. We chose not to have air conditioning. What was that, a way to prove our mettle or rebellion against the mainstream society? Or was it because when we were younger we weren’t insulated as well as we are now with extra meat on our bones; or enough brains in our heads to know the difference between hot and hotter? No, none of the above. It was just plain old stubborn redneck stupidity and one fact that we didn’t want to own up to – we couldn’t afford it. “Oh no, don’t feel bad for us,” I told my mom. “We don’t like air conditioning anyway. The hotter the weather, the better we like it.” Mom would just shake her head in disbelief and tell us that someday we’ll change our minds. Ha, she’s just a mother, what does she know? She even offered us her old window air conditioner – and I proudly refused. At the time, Walzie, two young sons, and I lived in a little metal hotbox known as a mobile home. When the sun sweltered in August, we lay around the house, sweating, naked as possible without becoming full-fledged nudists, with four hundred fans blowing over us. We even set pans of ice in front of those fans – bingo, redneck air conditioning. Ah yes, the life of Riley. And then in the early 80s, we had the opportunity to buy our first brand-spanking new vehicle.  None of the AMC Eagles on the lot suited us. We (okay, it was me) just had to have a red one with all the gingerbread. So we sat down with the dealer and listed our preferences. He wrote down “air conditioning”, which raised the price of the vehicle by $800. “Oh no,” I balked. “Take that off of the list. We don’t need air.” (By the way, to me “don’t need” was synonymous with “can’t afford”.) We picked up our new car in January. It was wonderful; we loved it. Yep, don’t need air conditioning in January. But then, we planned to drive that new car to Texas the following July. Ever been to Texas in the summer? We left Pennsylvania early that July evening, planning to drive all night. Ah, it was nice. The fresh evening air blowing through the open windows at sixty miles an hour was refreshing.  Around Nashville (oh yeah, we actually did pull up beside Conway Twitty in his little white Thunderbird on the expressway at 2 a.m. He smiled and waved at us. How cool was that!). Poor Walzie was getting drowsy, so we pulled over at a rest area to grab a little shut-eye. We awoke at sun-up sweating like Sumo wrestlers packed in a sauna; that southern sun is a killer. The faster Walzie drove, the hotter the blowing air became. There was no escape. “Whew,” I groaned. “Wish we had air conditioning.” “I don’t even want to hear it,” Walzie muttered through parched lips. At mid-day, it was easily 100 degrees and sweltering. We pulled off the interstate under an overpass near Texarkana, Arkansas and rested in the slightly cooler shade. The wind from passing vehicles kicked up dust that clung to our clammy skin. If we got caught in the rain we were destined to be little mud people. All at once, my nephew, Scottie, looked above us. “Oh cool, look at those snakes,” he said excitedly. “Can we catch some?” I glanced up. There were hundreds of rattlesnakes lazing under the bridge. No doubt they were looking for some shade, too. Walzie and I were back in the car quicker than a buckshot-peppered wildcat. Our son, Jason, and Scottie, disappointedly climbed into the backseat, and we were off again. When we finally reached our friends house in Decatur, we were totally exhausted. Maybe it was the previous twenty-four hour drive, but I swear it was the bake-oven we traveled in. “How do you folks stand this heat?” I asked Elizabeth. She laughed, “We don’t. Ya’ll come inside where it’s air conditioned.” The only time we left their wonderfully cool house all week was to get into their air conditioned vehicle and go to the Dairy Queen. Believe me we dreaded that long hot twenty-four hour drive back home. So what did we learn from this little trip? To appreciate one of man’s greatest inventions – air conditioning. And as I sit here under 12,000 icy BTU’s with a blanket across my goose-bump legs and type this little story for you, I realize another thing: Mom was right – again!