Today the Beau-mate and I did something we had never done. We visited the Grainger County Tomato Festival, one of those great little celebrations of localism that dot the hills almost every weekend. We both grew up within few dozen miles of Rutledge, where it's held, but, like those Parisians who never visit the Eiffel Tower, we never bothered to patronize it.
We found a crowd of cheerful visitors and vendors amid a display of antique farm equipment, classic cars, produce, cannons, books, handicrafts, and food. Lots and lots of food, all the way from fajitas in a basket to corn roasted in its own shuck. Despite the combined heat-and-humidity index of roughly 1,500 degrees F, the school grounds were lively. While my wife browsed jellies, candles, soaps, and clothing (all of it, as nearly as I could tell, made in-state), we found the smartest people in a 50-mile radius.
These folks were selling those neckcloths that are soaked to produce a cooling evaporation, and their booth was busier than a liquor store in a coal mining town on Saturday night. They even provided a barrel of chilled water for their customers to baptize their purchases.
All too soon, the heat took its toll on us, as we found ourselves wishing for a shady, old-fashioned verandah with wicker chairs and ceiling fans turning slowly.
We would have sat at ease, the Beau-mate in her lightest silks, I in my airest linens and Panama hat, sipping gin fizzes. Every few minutes, I would exclaim "Beastly humidity, eh, wot?" in my best Colonel Blimpie voice.
Alas, the supply of available verandahs approached zero. We were forced to flee to air-conditioned relief, leaving a shining example of the free market baking in the July sunshine.