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Ed Kemmick CITY LIGHTS

Ambrose Bierce defined weather as "The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned."

I might agree with Bierce at another time, but when the thermometer hits 107, as it did in Billings a few days ago, no other topic of conversation seems powerful enough to elbow the weather aside.

And when I am trying to get to sleep in my un-air-conditioned house, with my head at the foot of the bed in hopes of intercepting a breeze we wouldn't call "cool" at any other time of year, I feel a special kinship with those distant ancestors Bierce referred to.

Lately I've been waking up in the middle of the night still feeling parboiled. Was it really just last month when I was awakened four or five nights in a row by all-night rains? That seems like ages ago, so long ago that I was still naive enough to think that maybe the drought was over.

A little green grass and your average greenhorn will believe anything.

The 'silly season' Now it's almost August, which calls for another definition. J.C. Hotten's "Slang Dictionary" defined "silly season" as "The (August) period when nobody is supposed to be in London, when there are no parliamentary debates to publish, and when editors are at their wits'-ends to fill their papers with readable matter. All kinds of crazes on political and social subjects are then ventilated: gigantic gooseberries, monstrous births, and strange showers then become plentiful, columns are devoted to matters which would not at any other time receive consideration and, so far as the newspapers are concerned, silliness is at a premium."

I guess they didn't have forest fires in England. We don't have to resort to gigantic gooseberries around here.

But I'm all for silliness. It's just that at this time of year the heat saps not only my energy but my wits, and I'm not sure what's truly funny, or silly enough to be worth reporting.

Which brings me to Dick Hay, a Miles City inventor, ex-newspaperman and minor-league sage. Dick wrote to me after getting no response from Ann Landers about an idea he wished to introduce to the larger world. Dick used to work part-time in a bait shop, you see, and he was interested in establishing the word "squiggle" to define a dozen worms.

He thought it would simplify matters if anglers could go into a bait shop and order a "squiggle" of worms, rather than the typical, inconclusive "some worms," or "a can of worms." Then, if worms ever began to trade on the commodities market, Dick said, we'd be ready with these additional terms: 100 dozen worms would be a "centasquiggle," 1,000 dozen would be a "thousasquiggle" (this one needs some work, I think), and so on.

There you are, Dick. Consider your idea launched.

A '73 'Judy' And I can't help mentioning that Dick recently renamed his '73 pickup "Judy." Why? "Because when I get up in the morning I never know if it is going to run or not."

Weren't we talking about the heat? When I picture miserably hot weather, I always think back to descriptions of the Scopes Monkey Trial (speaking of naked arboreal ancestors) in the hot, humid hills of Tennessee during mid-July of 1925. Everybody - lawyers, the judge, the defendant and the spectators - was streaming sweat during the entire medieval proceedings.

At least back then the heat was everywhere. There wasn't air-conditioning for the well-to-do and agony for everybody else. At the moment, my agony is of my own making. I could go out and get myself a window air-conditioner, but so far I've resisted, and not just because I'm cheap.

You've got to keep warm in the winter or die, but in summer it seems unnatural always to be cool, to drive from your air-conditioned house to your climate-controlled office in your air-conditioned car. I tell myself it's good to have my moral fiber baked in the oven of July and August.

And, as a Minnesotan born and bred, I rejoice in the fact that in Montana, even when it's 107, it's not humid. That supposedly is one of the few consolations of hell; it's hot, but it's a dry heat.

It's also worth noting that God in his wisdom created not only heat but shade trees, cold beer and the Stillwater River. Without the heat, would we appreciate these other wonders of creation half as much?

Ed Kemmick can be reached at 657-1293 or ekemmick@billingsgazette.com

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