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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 www.jerryapps.com. 

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