Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heat, yard work, and when do you become a “Mister”?

As I’ve posted before, Houston is “enjoying” a heat wave this summer.  A blocking high pressure dome has settled over the gulf coast directly on top of us; as a result, the cooler weather the rest of the country is having (along with the accompanying rain) is staying to the north of us this year.  We’re just roasting.

Usually, night time in the summer in Houston is delightful.  The air temp goes down into the 70’s and we have the humid but pleasant sea breeze.  The stars at night are, in fact, big and bright, and the lights of the city are reflected on the little puffy clouds that hang around.  People here are used to barbecuing, hanging out, driving around in convertibles (ok, that one is me), and enjoying their patios and pools after dark. 

Not this summer, though.  It’s been 100 degrees at 10:00 this year.  That’s Dallas weather.  (As I write this, at 6:30 am Sunday, it’s a little cooler at 82 degrees, about 80% humidity).

All that to say, if you want to do any yard work, you have to do it from sunup to about 9:00 am, else it gets just too damn hot.

In my case, yard work has to be accomplished on Saturday mornings.  I’ve resumed going to San Antonio every other week, Mother’s not doing well.  That means I have every other Saturday morning from 6:30 – 9:00 to get everything I need done, done.  A quick aside:  I really don’t mind yard work.  Many do.  I enjoy it as therapy.  I also enjoy the look of the yard after I get through.

Yesterday, I arose with the best of intentions (much like right now).  Started drinking coffee and checking all my little places on the internets.  As usual, time got away from me and I didn’t get outside till 7:30.  The temp was already starting to climb.

Due to my restricted time schedule, there was a LOT of deferred maintenance.  I had a lot to do and not much time.  So, I set about my task. 

As the temperature climbed, my temper shortened, and my stamina decreased, I kept finding more and more that needed doing.  I arrived at the “grim determination” level—not gonna stop until I get FINISHED, by God!

So, I was standing out in the yard, taking a “rake break” (leaning on the rake trying to breathe).  I wear a floppy hat, shorts, t-shirt and crocs for yard work, so I look pretty hilarious.  My neighbors, Emily and Anthony, had finished theirs and gone to the pool (they tried to get me to go, but I was going to finish!).  The neighbor on the other side of Em is a nice young-ish man, probably early 30’s; he and his cute wife have 2 cute little girls. 

So, Brad sees me leaning on the rake and calls, “Are you all right, Mr. Jones?”  “Yes, I’m fine, just taking a break.”  “Ok, well, you call if you have any trouble and don’t get too hot!”  “Ok, I’ll be careful.”

I went back to work and then realized:  this approaching-middle-age, balding father of two had called me “Mr. Jones”---and I’d accepted it without a thought.  I’ve actually BECOME “Mr. Jones”.  That was a title reserved for my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. 

When I was little, my grandfather (the “real” Mr. Jones!) used to take me to the Bank with him.  We’d walk all over Malvern, and Gramp would proudly introduce his grandson.  Without fail, all the people we met would say, “Good morning, Mr. Jones!”  “Nice day, Mr. Jones” “Good to see you, Mr. Jones, and is this your grandson?”  We’d drive around town and Gramp would point out, “That’s the old Smith place”, or “Old Man Goza used to live there”. We’d see some old man (friend of Gramp’s) out working in his yard in a straw hat, regular collared shirt, long trousers and regular shoes, and I’d think, “Now, old Mr. West doesn’t need to be out there doing that in this heat!”

So, I guess now I’m “old Mr. Jones”, living at “the old Jones place”, and I sure as hell don’t need to be out there in this heat! 

I just wonder: When did I stop being “Nick” and start being “Mr. Jones”?  (And  a corollary my buddy Keith and I postulated while solving the world’s problems over a pitcher of beer:  at what point does a woman make the decision to stop wearing the high heels and start buying “sensible” shoes---i.e. Granny shoes?").

Ah, well, these imponderables will have to wait.  I have to go water my foundation (that’s another blog post), cut a dead limb out of one of the Indian Hawthorns, and take out two or three little junk oak trees in the flower beds.  Then maybe old Mr. Jones can hie himself to church.



The results of yesterday’s labours.  I’ve got to get that dead branch sawn out, and yes, there are a few brown patches right at the street, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  The mockingbird family is singing away from their home in that big bush on the right, and Mr. Blue Jay is courting Mrs. Blue Jay up near the house on the left.


  1. Except for that dead branch, it's looking good. Grass is really green. Your water bill must be outrageous.

  2. After I wrote this, I went outside. The branch is now at the curb, along with the little trees, and I am going to have to go get some methiolate or something. Saws have teeth....

  3. It looks nice.

    People don't much use titles anymore. I think about that each time I go through the bank drive-through. Do students still call teachers by titles? I was known as Mrs. Cornell when I taught.