Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

March 24, 2012

It’s only a groundhog, not a meteorologist

2012 — A lady I know showed up recently with a magnolia flower in her hair. It was locally grown, and this was in the middle of March.

The weather we’ve had lately is about as unnatural as a cat birthing baby elephants.

I’ve no complaints. Only twice this winter did I have to remove snow from my sidewalk — ice and snow, actually, most of which was put there not by the clouds but by a snowplow.

It now appears that the groundhogs lied to us ... or someone associated with them did. We have not had six more weeks of winter, as their human handlers told us we would, after reporting that Punxsutawney Phil and Western Maryland Murray (Cumberland’s official groundhog) saw their shadows on the morning of Feb. 2.

The last proprietor of The Last Cafe is a friend of mine, and he writes a column for the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter’s monthly newsletter.

He wrote with considerable passion that he had been out on the road that morning, and there was no way either groundhog could have seen his shadow.

It was just as cloudy where I was, and there was NO sunlight to have produced a shadow from a groundhog or anything else.

But as someone else has already pointed out, it’s a groundhog — not a meteorologist.

It looks like we’re not going to have what’s come to be a normal spring for this region.

Usually, we make a gradual transition from a prolonged spell of frigid and snowy/icy to a period of several weeks when it’s merely cold and rainy/damp, before going almost overnight into a time of heat, humidity and no rain that lasts until the monsoon season begins in the fall.

This means I now have to begin considering two things I had hoped to put off for a while.

One is my back yard, which I mowed only once last year due to a drought that was followed immediately by incessant rain and my being unavailable or unwilling to mow it when it was both green and dry at the same time.

Now, what I see from my back porch looks like a comb-over. It has wavy patterns and textures in it and what may be game trails created by kids, cats, dogs, possums and whatever else travels through my neighborhood.

I also have to think about getting a new air-conditioner.

What I have relied on since moving back to my old home place was the same air-conditioner my dad had installed back in the day.

It puts out 6,000 BTUs of cold air — or at least it did — and that was enough to keep the entire downstairs of my 110-year-old house comfortable during the day.

At night, I open the downstairs windows and turn on the huge exhaust fan that Dad installed in the dining room. By morning, it has sucked out all of the warm day air and replaced it with cool night air.

However, one afternoon during the height of last year’s hot season, I was sitting and watching TV when I began to wonder why the AC wasn’t running. It has a thermostatically controlled energy-saving setting that allows the motor to shut down when it’s not needed.

I went over to it, fiddled with the controls enough to see that something in it had died, and suddenly was seized by the closest thing to panic I’ve experienced in a while.

Trying to find a store that has a room-sized  AC for sale in August is about like trying to find ammunition for a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft gun. Somebody, somewhere, may have it, but not in this immediate vicinity.

Then a glimmer of hope burst through. In the upstairs guest room was an old AC that was big enough to cool off a small space, but not much more. It hadn’t been run for several years. Did it still work?

The second floor of my house is accessed by a stairway that is entirely too narrow and has two 90-degree turns separated by a landing that is entirely too small.

I fetched my two-wheeled hand truck and took it upstairs. Given the configuration of the stairway, that was hard enough.

The hand truck was necessary because, even though it was rated at only 1,000 BTUs, this vintage AC was bulky and heavy. Not a good idea to try simply carrying it downstairs.

During the summer, my second floor is about as pleasant to occupy as an antebellum Mississippi jail cell that has no windows.

By the time I got that AC out of its window and strapped onto the hand truck, I was drenched with sweat and probably smelled like the inhabitant of an antebellum Mississippi jail cell that has no windows.

I wrangled it down that convoluted stairway, one step at a time: heave-grunt-THUMP; heave-mutter expletive-THUMP; stop to wipe sweat from eyes and rest 63-year-old heart and lungs; heave-OUCH-THUMP; and so on — 16 times — all the while wondering what cumulative effect the heaves and THUMPs would have on my back and the ancient AC’s innards.

Finally, I got it to the  living room, then wrestled it into a suitable window behind a couch (which I had to move), plugged it in, took a deep breath, turned the switch and stood there thankfully basking in the cold air.

Between this little AC, the ceiling fan and a small but effective floor fan I situated facing me about dozen feet from my recliner, I managed to pass the rest of the summer quite nicely.

At night, I was able to remove most of the hot air with the surviving portion of Dad’s climate control system, which meant that it was cool in the morning and I wouldn’t wind up wasting a perfectly good shower.

It helps that this house was built long before air-conditioning was invented. Its walls are thick and insulated, and it has high ceilings.

Even without AC, the temperature doesn’t get past 85 even in the dead of summer, and that is tolerable — although not pleasant. I also can go to the basement, which has 18-inch thick stone walls and gets no hotter than 75.

The older I get, the more I embrace my father’s philosophies.

He used to say that two of the best days he ever had were the day he bought a gas furnace (which meant he never again would have to get out of bed at 3 a.m. to stoke a coal furnace) and the day he bought our first air-conditioner.

On these things, I agree with him.

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