In This Place: July 16, 2014
Making Hay While the Sun Shines
The “dog days” of summer can bring mixed blessings: if hot and dry, it’s the perfect haying weather but not so great for the cauliflower. The heat drove the city visitors here pell-mell in summers past, but sometimes, even in the Catskills, the heat hung on, even in the evenings. I started this week’s search with the word “prostration,” a term we don’t often hear now, but it was widely used in the past to signal a systemic collapse of any kind, whether from a nervous shock, grief, or most especially, heat:
July 4, 1913 — Dropped Dead With Heat.
David Armstrong, a former resident of Delhi, dropped dead in front of the Crandall Hotel in Blnghamton, Wednesday afternoon due to heat prostration. He was 70 years of age. Mr. Armstrong had just left Samuel Crawley’s barber shop which is attached to the hotel and had gone but a few steps when he was seen to stagger and fall in a heap on the pavement. Three physicians were hurriedly called but nothing could be done. Mr. Armstrong formerly lived at Delhi where he was a well-known horse dealer.
July 7, 1933 — Crops Not Injured
The first rainstorm in several weeks that did any good arrived here last Sunday night. It was a slow soaking drizzle and did an immense lot of good, good that can measure in hundreds of dollars. The rain lasted all night and the vegetation looks much better. The drought here had been so long and so dry that it was taking on serious proportions. We believe that the rain arrived before the hot dry spell had killed anything, though the hay crop was much shorter than was expected earlier as the grass was burned right out by the hot sun. Monday dawned much cooler which is a welcome relief from a temperature of higher than 100 degrees for several days past. — Halcottville Cor.
It seems the Summer of ‘36 was a banner year, not just for the heat wave, but for the wild fluctuations that then ensued. As old-timers in the Catskills warn, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.”
July 10, 1936 — Catskills Hit by Torrid Wave, Cauliflower Plants Wilt in Blazing Rays of Sun.
The Catskills are suffering a torrid wave that is roasting the entire eastern part of the United States. Temperatures Wednesday and yesterday ranged from 80 degrees upward to suit most any figure wanted.
The worst part of the hot weather, so far as the mountains are concerned, is the danger to crops because of the continued drouth and the hazard of forest fires. The drouth in the west will affect local farmers in that it will force up the price of cattle feeds. One of the hottest places in the state on Wednesday was Elmira where the official thermometer registered 107 in the shade.
Cauliflower growers were alarm- ed yesterday by the continued dry and hot weather. Some claim that the entire crop will be ruined unless rain comes this week. The only benefits the man on the street can claim for the hot weather is that farmers will be able to hastily gather their short crop of hay and that summer boarders will be forced to come to the mountain resorts.
The College of Forestry says: “With each day of drouth forest fire damage increases, be careful with your fires.”
July 17, 1936 — Hot Wave Changes to Cold Spell
The record breaking heat wave has passed and in its place we have a cool one. A state road watchman, who works all night, said yesterday that he thought he would freeze about 4 o’clock yesterday morning. The only way he could be comfortable was to start the heater in his car. No case of sunstroke or heat prostration was reported in this section during the terrific days of last week when the thermometer went above 100 degrees. The heat wrought havoc with crops. Cauliflower, in particular, is a sufferer. The hay is a half crop or less, except on land which has been planted to cauliflower recently. Many farmers will have to depend upon auxiliary crops to winter their herds.
August 21, 1936 — Near Frost on Tuesday
Nearly freezing temperatures greeted summer boarders, campers and other residents of high altitudes in this section Tuesday morning when local thermometers registered around 36 degrees. Campfires and extra blankets were in great demand to ward off the cold which so closely followed a heat wave. In the Adirondacks there was a heavy frost. But the cold which disturbed the summer folks was just right for the big mountain crop of cauliflower. The cold nights make for big solid heads and the season is fast becoming the best ever. Prices this week have been from 25 cents to $1.75 per crate with great quantities going to market.
Here is Clarke Sanford’s paean to the joy and freedom of summer from boy to bird to beast. The lost boy, David Raleigh, was the subject of a long search that I will investigate in depth in a future column, to see if we can find out what happened to him.
July 3, 1959 — From “Mountain Dew”
The disappearance of little David Raleigh after he caught his first trout three weeks ago seems on the way to a legend if the lad’s body is not found. I have been told many times, “The boy is not in the mountains.” A man on the street said to me last week, “A million men could not find the boy.” I asked him why. He replied “Because he is not there.” The man expressed no notion of what he thought happened to the boy.
School is out—pupils of all ages have scattered to wide open places, to the mountains, seashore, to farms, camps, along the valleys, in high and low places, away from home when possible.
They are devoid of clothes to the extent mothers allow, many mothers are of a liberal mind. Whatever the conditions of housing, food, raiment, they are having a good time. May their vacations be happy ones to become part of the nostalgia which will be fond memories in days to come.
The children of the wild are also let loose. Up to the present they have been much under the direction of mothers and an occasional father. Partridges, which a few weeks ago hid under the leaves when mother gave a danger warning, now fly up from the ground into nearby shrubs and trees. Mother no longer drags a wing to attract danger to herself and away from the children.
A young crane (blue heron) is learning to stab fish at the tail-end of a trout pool. He never will be able to read a “posted” sign, distinguish small trout from suckers. Nor will his long-legged waders ever leak and have to be taken to Bill Murphy for repair.
A mother skunk is trailing the year’s black and white family of five or six, Indian file through the woods and fields in search of skunk tidbits whose chemistry may be changed into a violent product.
Baby squirrels, cutest things ever seen, are furred and tailed, not yet taught how to run from tree through an entire forest. Soon weaned from mother’s milk they are taught to know how squirrel food looks, smells and feels to the young tongue.
Baby wood ducks have already been kicked out of a nest 10 or more feet above the water or land and found themselves already well equipped to swim, dodge big fish, seek duck food.
Birds of a hundred varieties, which have been holding their bills open at the approach of a parent, have left the nest and follow mother about on the ground where she finds food to put into a waiting beak. She will not continue this for long. The youngster must learn to find its own food or starve. There is no foolishness in the wild.
Cute bunnies three to four inches long have learned to dodge cars along a highway. They are produced in quantities all the warm months. Food is not a summer problem. There is not much in the green world a bunny would refuse. Ask a country gardener.
I never saw a young osprey soaring on the sunny side of a mountain. It is quite possible the young birds learn at lesser heights. The osprey minds its own affairs, lives on fish, migrates when northern waters freeze, is an affectionate parent, chases crows and other pests from the neighborhood where it nests.
I have never been able to observe a hermit thrush teaching a chick how to sing that liquid music which floats through a lonely mountain woodland, a cadance never to be forgotten. The thrush is the American nightingale. It is probable the youngster needs no teaching. Nature, so generous with young creatures, has the throat of the hermit all prepared. The youngster has only to open its beak and sing, no piano lessons, no expensive tutor, no piercing high notes to annoy a neighbor.