Sunday, August 29, 2010


Predictable, persistent domes of high pressure have accounted for the 2010 summer heat wave in north Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth area had an 18-day streak of 100+ degree days that began on July 31 and lasted through August 17 ranking it as the 7th longest period of consecutive 100+ degree days for the DFW area. While August 18 only hit a high of 96° the temps soared back above 100 following that brief respite from the heat. That newest heat wave was showcased by the record setting 107 degrees on August 23 (and a nearby 110°) which tied the record high previously set in 1952 and buckled concrete roads. Heat advisories accompanied by heat indexes of 107 to over 110 have been commonplace. And, yes, we have humidity (lots of it) in north Texas - no dry heat a la Arizona.

While these numbers are impressive and this summer may ultimately rank in the top five hottest, we probably need not invoke some catastrophic, human-inspired Goresque global warming prediction (though we do need to reduce fossil fuel emissions) or divinely inspired apocalypse. It has been much, much hotter in the past. In 2006 we experienced 100+ degrees for 19 days straight (August 8-26). In 1999, the extreme heat lasted for 24 days (July 28-August 20) and 1998 was worse with a streak that lasted 29 days (July 6-August 3). In 1980 Dallas experienced 42 century-plus days in a row (from June 23 to August 3), a record that still stands in north Texas. In 1980 those high temperatures exceeded 100°F for 69 days with all-time highs achieved on June 26 and 27 when the real air temperatures reached 113°F. In all, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex saw 29 days in which the previous record high temperature was either broken or tied. Those records still stand.

Having said that, I do think that my childhood years in north Texas were far more uncomfortable overall and vividly remember the severe Texas drought and heat of the 1950’s and specifically the summer of 1953 when tar and gravel streets melted when temperatures exceeded 100°F for 52 days. The difference then was the fatal combination of heat and extreme drought which we are not now experiencing. My childhood perceptions are probably colored by less than efficient AC systems then and more time spent in the great outdoors. It would appear that more areas of the country are now sharing our heat induced misery.

I do remember some folks performing a rain dance the summer of 1980 at the picturesque Turtle Creek fountain across from Lee Park (as in Robert E.) in Dallas. Surprisingly, it did rain the next day though not nearly enough to break the heat wave which persisted for yet another month.

During the course of my recruiting efforts I talk with folks all over New England and they too have had their bout with the heat this summer. Several weeks ago one very frustrated and overheated lady in Biddeford, ME recounted that the temperature on her deck hit 102 degrees – well above normal for coastal Maine! That’s time for a dip in the 70°north Atlantic… When the Buxton Boys set up residence in Pawtucket and later Providence, RI from 1954-on we thought that the sun was going super nova and we were all going to die in some flaming inferno when the temperature hit the always, unusually high 90°. Well, again, that was an excuse to hit the RI South County beaches.

The geraniums that I was able to heroically save from last winter’s freezing and subzero temperatures via a makeshift greenhouse are now mostly gone due to the intense heat. They stopped flowering and then unceremoniously gave up the ghost despite watering and fertilization. They now reside in the Buxton record book in plant heaven with my less than spectacular 2009 tomato plants that yielded only one fruit (the $30.00 split tomato) due to the intense heat… I am now growing a very healthy bumper crop of hardy rosemary that loves the heat. Can sage be far behind?

We need not forget that south and central Texas including Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio experienced extreme drought and excessive heat for a couple of years until the rains returned last year. The pendulum swings back and forth – all part of that El Nino/La Nina thing… The Climate Prediction Center says we are now moving towards a La Nina weather pattern.

Before we start feeling sorry for ourselves let’s put this in perspective. As much as I hate the high, extreme temperatures all I have to do is conjure memories of horrific Hurricane Katrina that hit five years ago today and the suffering and indignities endured by those incredibly brave residents of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans who now appear to have to fight a new gorilla each year.

Spider bite or not (it’s slowly improving – sort of), it was very pleasant in Montana with daytime highs generally only in the 80’s with even a couple of nights dipping into the 30’s. The Weather Channel reminders of 105° temperatures in the DFW Metroplex gave us good reason to be thankful for our then northern geography.

The bottom line is that Texas is Texas and it gets hot here. It is what it is… Would we rather be in Pakistan where extreme high temperatures have been commonplace (new Asian record of 128 degrees), not to mention the devastating floods that have ravaged over 1/5 the country? Now comes the disease…

We are blessed, Aye

Ned Buxton

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We just returned from our annual holiday jaunt to Montana and the incredible and always spectacular Beartooth Mountains. This year it was more exciting including a welcome, anticipated visit from long-time Friends Dorothy and Norm Bishop of National Park Service, International Wolf Center and the Wolf Recovery Program fame and all around good guy. Our locale was also visited by those prison escapees/fugitives from Arizona who probably made it to Red Lodge and were seen in nearby Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and Billings, Montana before the last two were finally captured way back in Arizona (apparently they thought it too cold?). We were more vigilant than usual and scrutinized all strangers with a calculating Poirot demeanor.

The bears have been active again though the Grizzlies appear to be staying up in the high country. There was some concern about Grizzlies given the recent terrible death and mauling of tent campers (one death) near Yellowstone Park. Thankfully, the guilty party’s three cubs ended up in a zoo in nearby Billings. The guilty sow is now occupying a non-earthly plane.

We did note that some black bears have learned the relative ease of entry that casement windows offer and the treats in human refrigerators (ice cream and blueberries). Once the berries start to show on native flora, however, they will be gone - back to their normal and relatively safe habitat for more plentiful and nourishing offerings. No, though we saw lots of scat we did not see any bears this year. We did see and or have experiences with some other critters, including at least one spider…

For most of my life I have been well aware of the threat that some spiders (out of 50K known species) pose to Humans including the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. Thanks to National Geographic and the Discovery Channel we in North America now know about the infamous and sometimes fatal bite of the male Australian Funnel Web Spider and that has always prompted my serious respect for our eight legged cohabitants on this planet. It wasn’t until recently that I started to understand that I needed to be ever more vigilant - closer to home.

One of my welcome and enjoyable chores this holiday was to paint and spiff up the house and that meant standing around the home exterior in a kind of rock border and just happens to be a perfect habitat for some critters. Whilst I was scraping, sanding, caulking, painting, etc. apparently this yet to be identified critter nailed me with consequences that will be remembered for, hopefully, many years. I did not feel the bite though noticed the inflamed and by then painful area on my right calf while taking a shower the next day. It got steadily worse prompting a visit to the local doc who proclaimed that he thought it a spider bite (no Brown Recluse in Montana but the aggressive house spider?) and prescribed a watchful eye on the wound and a return visit the next day for reevaluation.

The next day found a much enlarged even more angry wound which prompted a post-haste return visit and the observation that it was surely staph infected and worthy of lots of attention. A righteous antibiotic was prescribed and that would have to suffice until my return to Dallas. There went my evening glass of southern Rhone red wine (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault & Carignan) and I have had no alcohol since… Ahh the prospects of a divinely aged red awaiting me in 2011.

The affected area on my right calf worsened with a now almost black, ever-expanding necrotic center though the antibiotic seemed to be keeping the overall infection in check. By the time we returned to Dallas the leg was raging and a welcome return to work the following Monday was not in the cards. I first went to my internist who immediately impressed, referred me on to a top notch dermatologist who equally mesmerized, promptly cut on me until the wound now with a concrete hard, six inch diameter started draining. They changed me to a more powerful antibiotic and told me to stay off my feet and elevate the leg. I worked the next day but returned to the doctor Wednesday when my right leg swelled to tree trunk dimensions. He cut on me some more and added another antibiotic to treat what looked more like a Stephen King nightmare at this point (Daddy?). All this wasn’t happening to me. This has to be some diabolically close reality show… As Mother would have said, “Ghastly.”

I was told not to work that day and only work on Thursday and Friday if I felt better. I had to be recumbent and at least have my leg elevated at all times. You, however, couldn’t have kept me out of work then and while I did mostly catching up for a lost week, the calf and my leg would appear (jury is still out) to have made a turn for the better after yet another Doctor visit on Friday that included an additional, more powerful topical antibiotic and the news and attendant relief that the staph was determined to not be the infamous, drug resistant MRSA. Up to that point their fear was I would have to go on an IV antibiotic and perhaps hospitalization. Yikes!

So why go into all this gory (Gang, I have really cleaned this up) detail about my experiences? Well, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. Aside from the absolutely gross appearance and experience of incredible pain, discomfort, anxiety, lost sleep and the threat to my overall health, the message is clear - this is nothing to mess with. Infection in this day and age by any opportunistic hole in your body cannot be ignored. The rules have changed and keep on changing. We are in a race to keep one step ahead of these ever evolving, opportunistic and resistant bacterial (and viral) infections and failing in our efforts to keep up, may someday best us.

Bottom line: I’m still fighting this thing and am waiting for my spidey powers to kick in and contemplating changing at least my pen name to Peter Parker. I may do that for no other reason than to entertain and accommodate my recent feelings and continuing obsession with all arachnids, sanitation and checking each pants leg before putting on my trews. Despite rumors to the contrary I was not wearing a kilt while working on the house. Indeed, I was wearing shorts that day, a mistake I will not repeat.


Ned Buxton

P.S. Went to COSTCO in Plano this afternoon to replenish my larder (buy groceries) and lo and behold - in a metroplex with millions of residents I ran into my dermotologist. I gave him a hearty and respectful greeting though he sternly responded, "I thought I gave you strict orders to stay off your feet." Busted... NB