To write about Arkansas summer you have to have the animal memory of swelter, of low water, of dry sumps, of deer come close to the cow pond, of NO BURN signs everywhere.
Years ago during the hottest summer on record, Phoenix simmered to a boil in its lovely tarmac, a bubble away from heatstroke, everywhere they were preaching Armageddon and using 115 degrees for proof. That year, in the mountains with no air condition it was too hot to sleep close even with fans at the head and foot of the bed. Before 11am and after midnight you could be in the house. Apart from those hours, we stayed away as long as we could. Glory be for Harts’ grocery store, where we pushed a wire cart through the cans and bottles—15 minutes to choose a sponge, ½ hour for a soft drink chilled straight out of the cooler box. The hottest summer since Satan fell or so we thought. It sweated us. It may be that we were brown and swam it. May be that when we could, we stepped down from the cliff into the icy river water imagining ourselves Cherokee just passing through or Quapaw or settlers, learned long ago to make some peace with the heat. Winter was a rumor that summer. We searched for something cold and what we found was never cold enough.
[The phrase "down to the licklog": slang relating to the second-to-last thing some cattle were made to do before they were slaughtered. It was an old rancher trick to take them to the salt lick and then to water to increase the weight before slaughter.]