Jerry Apps: 100 degrees in the shade

Jerry Apps
This old thermometer has been with author Jerry Apps in colds time and in hot times...very hot times.

It’s an old thermometer. One of those that has a red thread of mercury that climbs or descends against numbers. It’s probably 35 or 40 years old; I don’t know when I bought it. I nailed it against the side of the cabin in the shade, where I figured it would accurately tell me the temperature no matter what the season.

And it has done that. I’ve read minus 20 on that old thermometer a time or two when the winters seemed colder than they are now. Never saw minus 40 though; I remembered those temperatures when I was a kid.

On Memorial Day, just a few days ago, that old thermometer reported a temperature I’ve not seen on it before. It said 100 degrees. I told my brother, Donald, who lives a quarter mile from my place what my thermometer reported.

“Can’t be right. That old thermometer is way off. I checked my thermometer and it only read 97 degrees.” He laughed when he said it. He’s got a fancy digital thermometer that displays the temperature on a little screen. 

I checked my thermometer about 2:00 p.m. on Memorial Day when it hit 100. I checked that old thermometer the same time today, which is not quite a week later—62 degrees. That’s a 38-degree difference. Talk about a temperature swing. On Memorial Day I was looking for a shady place to sit. Today I’m looking for a jacket.

The Old Timer Says: Without a thermometer, some of us old timers wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to