Ten Ways to Keep Your Cool


Sister Tater called yesterday. She was in a great mood ’cause it was 80 degrees at the beach. Sister Tater loves the sun. She’s got Mama’s genes, which means everyone who knew anything about the Mayes family thinks Sister Tater looks like Granny Ruth, who died back in the 60s. Granny Ruth’s mother shacked up with a local man. I am not sure if they married in the traditional way or not. Although what we now call traditional didn’t used to be traditional at all. That’s the funny thing about institutions and their claims over what is traditional. But by local I mean a Native American.

Sister Tater got the Native American side of the family and I got the Irish side. She is dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark of skin. I am none of those things. Mama was a sun lover, too, ’cause like Sister Tater, she was her best self when she was bronzed by the sun. It never occurred to her to keep a freckled-child covered up, so I have a conflicted relationship with the sun. I love sunshine, crave it, need it. I could never live on the Washington coast the way Sister Tater does. It rains far too much for me. And when it isn’t rainy, it’s often windy and chilly. Sunny days are a gift to be cherished.

I live in the part of Oregon where the sun shines about 350 days a year. What that means is that if it is 80 degrees at Sister Tater’s beach house, it’s 110 degrees at my house.

I told Sister Tater I was happy that she was having such a fabulously great day, there at the sunshiny beach where the ocean is merely a five minute walk away. But, I reminded her, I was not willing to face a summer of 110 degree days just so that she could continue to enjoy 80 degree days.

It’s hot y’all.


I have lived in sweltering weather most of my life – Georgia, Tennessee, Hawaii, Georgia again. And I realize that most folks don’t think of Oregon as sweltering but this side of Oregon can get hotter than a fritter, as my husband likes to say.

The worst summers of my life were spent in a 12 x 60 with a window box air conditioner made in the 1960s, which means it cooled down everything half a foot in front of it and nothing else. I was a sophomore in high school before I lived in a home with central air.


One of the best things about going to church in the South when I was a young girl wasn’t Jesus, it was air conditioning.

They say it is important for people to never forget where they came from and I can tell you that when it gets hot like it’s been around here, I start praying for all those babies and mamas and daddies who live in trailers and apartments without AC.

Last night daughter Shelby, who lives in a house without AC, sent me a photo of her after she’d run through the sprinklers late at night, while daughter Konnie sent me a photo of the window unit she and her husband put up in the baby’s room. I still can’t get used to the idea of a craftsman’s home with a window unit.

Summer isn’t even officially here yet and everybody is working on ways to stay cool.

In Oregon.

Of all places.

Here’s my list. Feel free to add to it.

1. Go to church as much as possible. Choose a church with Central Air.

2. Wash grapes. Put them in the freezer. Eat frozen grapes while laying on your bed in your underwear. You’ll feel like Egyptian Royalty.

3. If you don’t like laying around in your underwear, lightly spray a shirt with water and stick it in the freezer. Put it on right before bedtime.

4. Put your head in the freezer, breath in until you can’t stand the cold air no more. Run get in bed and fall asleep quickly before the cold wears off.

5. If you can’t sleep, watch documentaries about Alaska. Imagine yourself there.

6. Visit a relative who has Central Air. Stay until the heat wave breaks.

7. Take a lot of cold showers. Go to bed with your hair wet.

8. Chew crushed ice.

9. Go out for Slurpees at midnight. Be careful around all the people packing weapons. Heat makes congenial people cranky.

10. Fake a heat stroke so you can sit in the lobby of an air conditioned hospital for hours before the Emergency Room folks get around to assessing you. Take a good book to read.


Remember y’all, be kind to everyone you meet. They are suffering from the heat wave, too.


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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