When summer sets in out here among the clay buttes and tall grasses it’s like nothing else.
It’s like our world could not be further away from the one we know in the middle of January when the windswept snow drifts outside our door and the cold is so cold it actually hurts.
But in mid July the air swelters. It settles on the top of the water in our stock dams and grows creatures we haven’t seen for months. It pools up under our cowboy hats, drips down the back of our work shirts and moves with us in the slow motion effort we use to make it through the day.
The people and animals of the north were not meant for 90+ degree weather. We see it coming and run for a canopy of trees, find refuge inside the ice cold of a sparkling drink and on the other end of our lawn hoses. We watch our garden grow and wait for the sun to retreat to do the weeding or to check how the radishes are coming along.
We swat horseflies and search in our houses for the summer cutoffs we wear five times a year to sit by the fan and say “Geesh, it’s a hot one.”
Our skin turns from white to red to brown as the wild sunflowers growing in road ditches reach their petals toward the sky.
We know who we are here inside the smells, sounds and sites of a season we wait all year to indulge in. We know what it looks like and what it means.
It means foxtails sweeping and bending in the draws, horseflies biting at our necks, hard cracked earth and tall wild grass that scratches our bare legs.
It means sweaty brows and an alfalfa crop, a sky with no clouds in site and dust hanging in the air kicked up by neighbors and big trucks heading out somewhere.
Summer means rain puddles left in the sun to dry, dragonflies and pink sunsets and a sky twinkling so bright you can’t tell the difference between fireflies and stars.
And we hold this under our skin, the pieces of the hard dirt, the swish of a horse’s tail, the sweet smell of cattle and summer grass and the trails we wore down to dust, we keep this with us as we move through the season, grow tired of the heat and welcome the cool down.
And come January when the ground is white we will say to one another “Can you believe it was ever green out here?”
Then we will close our eyes and dream of a summer that held heat under our hats and sent it trickling down our backs.