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August 21, 2000

It's beginning to feel and look a lot like summertime these August days. Yards are turning brown because of the torrid heat and army worms have begun holding lunchtime festivals on a few lawns in our little town. Pest control people have been responding to homeowners' urgent requests for help to obliterate the nasty little green creatures, but frequently the summonses come after the fact of damage has occurred. As for the heat wilting some of our finest lawns, well, there's no sure cure for that. At least we have not had a call for water rationing this year.

The other day I was talking to Jesse Phillips, a longtime friend, just making conversation. We had arrived simultaneously at the weekly Rotary meeting and I noticed his brow was wrinkled and he seemed to be leaning on a doorpost. I asked if the summer heat was getting him down. Jesse smiled characteristically and said, "No, I became immune to heat in 1936. I was picking cotton that summer, barefoot as usual, and we had a high temperature that day of 116. That still stands as a record. When you're barefoot in heat like that in a cotton field, you learn to dig your feet into the loose soil as deep as possible to find something you can bear to stand on. So, no, the heat we've been having lately doesn't bother me." The wrinkled brow and brief respite were just to let him catch his breath. Then I told him how we tried, almost successfully, to fry an egg on the sidewalk in front of the City Drug Store that summer. Of course, the heat wave that year was compounded by the misery of the Dust Bowl with its blowing red soil and sand, not to mention the general malaise off the Great Depression. So, I guess if we survived all that, we can't complain about our recent spell of 100-degree weather. Does that make you more comfortable?

By the way, Joe Dietz, from the corporate communications staff of ONEOK, the parent of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., made an interesting presentation to Rotary last Monday. He did his best to explain the changes soon to be forthcoming in the way we receive natural gas service. It's mostly the result of "unbundling, a process that will change the utility business to something like the reorganization that took place in AT&T after the government mandated new ways of doing business for the telephone company. Eventually, ONG as we know it today will simply disappear, although the company's present pipeline network will be used by others to deliver gas to homes and businesses. Someone asked Mr. Dietz if we could look forward to more telemarketing phone calls from folks who want to sell us their gas. If I understood his response correctly, that practice will not be allowed when this new system is installed.

Part of the change, of course, is resulting in the closing of Perry's ONG office, which is kind of reminiscent of Southwestern Bell's shutdown here several years ago. Because of automated dialing equipment, the phone company closed its office and plant here. Operators were no longer needed, they said, and bills could be paid by mail or to a local spot. Some of us still feel bad about that change.