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Heat Stroke Is No Laughing Matter

Heat Stroke Is No Laughing Matter
Personal testimonies attest to dangers of heat.

Maybe you have hay to bale this week. Or maybe you're spraying soybeans. Or maybe you're just going to your county fair. Even if the monster heat wave breaks into normal July, humid days, you still need to be careful about protecting yourself and not getting too hot, officials say.

My problem with heat started more than 30 years ago, before the days of Roundup Ready soybeans. My late father farmed at the time, with help from my brother and I on the weekend. We had a patch of shattercane starting to spread by the person doing custom combining, and I wanted to wipe it out. I used a hand-held wick filled with Roundup solution. Today they belong in museums, but at the time hand wicks and rope wick implements to wipe weeds above the crop with glyphosate were the only way to keep care of problem weeds that got out of control, or that you did not want going to seed.

For some reason, I decided after lunch was a good time to walk into the middle of a 40-acre field and wick a half-acre patch of cane. An annual in the grass family, shattercane sticks well above the crop. If left alone to grow, it gets about 6-feet tall and produces a sorghum-type head on top of the plant. Sometimes the plants even stick out above corn in a cornfield.

It was hot, not 99, but still hot. I commenced waving the wick on the plants. The longer I went, the more I sweated. The sun was beating down. About three-fourths of the way though, I considered quitting. I wasn't feeling so good. But I was determined to finish the job and not have to come back out another time just to do a small patch. Besides, until the plants died, I wouldn't know for sure which ones were sprayer and which ones weren't.

As I finished up, I could feel my head pounding. It was hard to walk through the drilled beans. My legs felt heavy. I kept walking, driving myself toward the house. We lived in an old, non-air-conditioned farm house with a big front porch at the time. The closer I got, the more determined I was to reach the porch.

I made it to the concrete porch and crouched down. My mother had noticed me coming, and brought out cold wash clothes and ice water. My face was beet red. I stuck it out, laid around for a couple of days, but finally my stamina came back.

It happened a second time a year ago. By now I know if dizziness begins, it's time to seek air conditioning. A friend has been to the hospital for heat stroke twice and rode out a third time by himself. His episodes make him totally unable to function.

Be careful how you deal with the heat this week. Heat stroke is real, and ahs already clamed a number of victims this summer.

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