A few months of high temperatures is the price we pay for living in the desert oasis of Bullhead City along the Colorado River. But it is a dry heat, just like the oven. And our fall, winter and spring temperatures are far more enjoyable than Duluth, Billings, or Fargo.
On a more serious note, yes, it is hot come July and August. But with a bit of perspective, and a history lesson, summer becomes much more tolerable.
Case in point, a few days ago it was 102 degress in Denver, Colorado, the “Mile High City.” And the humidity was nearly 50%, a dramatic difference from the 11% humidity in Bullhead City.
And of course air conditioning in our homes, offices and cars make even the hottest day bearable. But how did people survive the desert heat before air conditioning.
According to the accounts of early explorers, the Mohave that called the river valley home for centuries spent a lot of time swimming in the river during the months of summer. Hardy pioneers that settled Hardyville, built Fort Mohave, and developed mining camps in the rugged Black Mountains used time honored desert construction methods.
The used adobe and stone, built places with thick walls, added wide shaded porticos, and widows positioned to catch evening breezes. And they spent a lot of time swimming in the river, endured the heat, and counted the days until winter.
Martha Summerhayes, the wife of an Army lieutenant, wrote extensively of her life in the Arizona Territory in the 1870s. In her journals that were the basis for the book Vanished Arizona, she wrote about hot dresses, “indescribably” smelly rotten food and swimming in the Verde River.
She and her family, and generations of Arizonans well into the WWII years, slept outdoors on porches. The legs of their beds were placed in cans of water to ward off ants, scorpions and other pests.
In the summer of 1915, then 21-year old Edsel Ford and some friends from college followed the National Old Trails Road west to California on a grand adventure. In his journal entry dated July 16 he noted, “Arrived at Needles 8:30 P.M., slept on porch of hotel on account of heat.”
Centuries of simply surviving the desert heat during the months of summer gave way to the modern technologies of HVAC systems and air conditioning with a slow evolution that started in 1908. That was the year that Oscar Palmer of Phoenix built the first drip type evaporative cooler in Arizona.
The concept was ancient. There are records that in ancient Egypt and Persia, the wealthy hired servants to fan over clay water jugs or basins of water. According to legend Leonardo de Vinci experimented with a fan-driven cooling system. Early Spanish pioneeers learned from native populations that a mesh of cactus fibers or grass hung with hte bottom acting as a wick in clay water jars, ollas, could make a room tolerable with the slightest breeze.
Early American pioneers took the idea a step further and hung wet burlap or cotton sheets over doors and windows. The advent of electric fans made the process somewhat more efficient.
So, a few months of heat made tolerable with air conditioning, or half a year spent scrapping the windshield in the morning, shoveling snow, and of course road salt that turns your car into Swiss cheese, which do you prefer? To learn more about Bullhead City, and why it was recently rated as one of the top ten small cities for remote workers, contact the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce today.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America.