The Water’s So Hard . . .

How hard is it?

You get bruises taking a shower.

It’s the minerals that hurt when you belly flop into the pool.*

Such mild exaggerations are part and parcel of English language humor, especially what I think of as rural humor.

Some are as old as Noah and the Ark, some as recent as the moment. I was in an airport in southeastern Iowa waiting for a passenger to arrive and a storm line to depart. Several older gents, farmers active and retired, had gathered to drain the coffee pot and pass the time of day. “Well, I knew it’s been dry but I didn’t know how dry,” a voice stated.

I pricked my ears, sensing a great story in the offing.

“Couple of nights back, I was locking up and heard the dogs barking down by the sweet corn patch. I went that way and heard rustling. Do you know what I saw?” Dramatic pause.


“It’s been so dry, the raccoons had formed a bucket brigade and were watering the sweet corn!”

. . . it’s so dry I had to spray my catfish for ticks.

. . . I wouldn’t say its dry around here, but when Noah had his flood? We got two inches.

. . . It was so dry that the trees were chasing the dogs.

. . . It was so dry I had three-year old catfish in the creek that didn’t know how to swim.

. . . the cows were giving dehydrated milk.

. . . it was so cold that the lawyers had their hands in their own pockets.

. . . it was so dark I had to light a match to see the stars.

. . . he was so cheap that he got out of bed to turn over so he’d save war-n-tear on the sheets.

. . . her pants were so tight that I had trouble breathin’. [Only said by men]

. . . the room was so small you had to step out the door to have space to change your mind.

. . . it’s so flat you can stand on a tunafish can and see Ft. Worth.

. . . so rural it’s at 80th and Plum. 80 miles from pave, plum out in the middle of nowhere.

. . . it was so hot the hens were layin’ hard-boiled eggs.

. . . it was so good that if you put a bowl of it on your head, your tongue’d beat your brains out tryin’ to get to it.

. . . runnin’ hotter ‘n a red onion.

. . . cold enough to freeze the balls off a billiard table. [Rarely heard in mixed company]

. . . colder than a well-digger’s hip pocket.

. . . so old she waited tables at the Last Supper.

. . . so old, when he was born, the Dead Sea was only sick.

. . . so ugly, the farmers put his wanted poster on the cows when they got ready to wean the calves.

. . . darker than a thousand midnights at the bottom of a cypress swamp.

. . . so dumb, he cut down his shade tree for firewood. [Usually said in East and South Texas, where shade is needed more than heat.]

In case you wondered, I have an ear for fascinating turns of phrase and regional humor. There are a few phrases I’ve heard that require very local knowledge (” . . .hotter than a Palacios parking lot” for instance. If you’ve not been there in August, you’ve not ‘enjoyed’ hot weather) or historical events (“I’m not sayin’ he got took, but I think he was payin’ for bank robbers and got goat herders” refers to events down on the Border in the late 1800s). Regionalisms and colloquialisms can tell you a lot more about the local culture than all the anthropological studies in the world. And are a lot more fun to listen to, too.

“Mind you, I’m not sayin’ he was crooked, but he screwed on his socks.”

*No joke: I used a dental pick to break chunks of calcite out of the little holes in the shower-head so I could get the fine spray feature working again. They’d gotten plugged solid enough that the seals upstream were giving way and water came out the handle.


53 thoughts on “The Water’s So Hard . . .

  1. A few I remember from my childhood.

    N.D. is so flat, you can stand on a soup can and see the curvature of the earth.
    The only thing between us and the North Pole is a bared wire fence, and it is down 6 months out of the year.
    Why not Minot? Freezing’s the reason. (also heard as Seasons, but it doesn’t flow are well)
    North Dakota has 3 season: Nearly Winter, Winter and Spring.

    (Dad was stationed at Minot AFB for a couple of years)

    • Also, -41 keeps out the riff-raff. I heard it was 5 seasons: Winter, winter, winter, winter, and Roads Under Construction.

  2. From growing up in rural central Ohio:

    There are four seasons – winter, spring, road construction, and football.

    Hotter’n five hundred hells.

    So sharp his whiskers fall off.

    Regional words – gumption, stick-to-itiveness, pop (any soft drink), orange barrel polka, whopjawd (crooked in more than one direction)(I had no idea it might be based on an ethnic slur until I was in my thirties!) Whop (beat/hit), wumpled (slightly/gently beaten).
    Wash (verb), warsh (noun, clothes being washed).

    You jump across t’ crick, wade across t’ creek, and swim across t’ river.

    Damper’n a wet hen.

  3. Hard Water and showerheads – handy no-dental-pick version. Put a ziplock baggie over the showerhead. Take it off, add enough vinegar that when you put it back on, the showerhead will be submerged. (Or guess and have it run down your arms.) Tape the baggie shut, and leave it overnight. Also, take some paper towels and lay them over the handles, damp to almost-dripping with white vinegar. Leave overnight. The next day, remove all of the above, pour the vinegar in the baggie down the drain. Shower as normal.

    Yes, I’m lazy. Weak acid and time vs. scrubbing and picking is less work…

  4. I’ve always liked “He’s so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.” Also, “X is so skinny s/he has to run around in the shower to get wet.”

    On my dad always uses is “King’s X, I quit” said when completely fed up with a given situation. He’s the only one I’ve ever heard use it, but the way he says it, it seems like it has to come from somewhere.

  5. There’s always the descriptions of stupidity
    – he’s not dealing from a full deck.
    – he’s a bungalow (there’s nothing upstairs)
    – he makes a screwdriver look sharp
    – he’s not the sharpest pencil in the case


  6. From my Dad:

    When we’d ask some silly question:
    Is it hotter in the summer or the city?

    I’d rather owe it to you than cheat you out of it.

    When someone would complain about going out in the rain:
    You’re not made of sugar; you won’t melt.

  7. A couple you hear around Texas:

    That ol boy don’t know nothing, hell , he don’t even suspect…..

    You gotta dance with the one that brung ya…..

  8. From Tidewater North Carolina:

    For Good Food: Make a rabbit chase a dog good, Slap your Momma Good, Finger lickin good,

    A good salesman: could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a lady in white gloves on a hot July day.

    Gogglyeyed, skaddy whompus, meaning crooked.

    Jury rigged, fixed with whatever you had. (There is a more racial version but I hear it less and less than when I was a kid)

    Whompus cat – stuck up lady also a cat with it’s but hole showing….used interchangeably.

    And probably the most well known phrase of any part of the south: Bless your/his/her heart (you can now say whatever you want and it wont be offensive….supposedly).

  9. And one of my favorites, from Foghorn Leghorn: “he’s about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.”

  10. Before Detroit did away with hood ornaments altogether we used to say “You know your in Kansas when the horizon drops below the hood ornament on your car, truck, etc.”.

  11. It was so hot that day I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking…
    I’m in the southern foothills of the Adirondacks, and it’s said that we have four seasons here: Ice, Mud, Blackfly and Tourist.

  12. The water here is hard enough it’s fun to douche with (heard from what was then known as a girl at the ag school I, a city kid, went to. I was shocked.)
    Bring your brass monkeys indoors, folks. It’s gonna be cold out tonight (radio DJ.)
    Another one not for polite company: So horny the crack of dawn had better watch out.

  13. So dry I just saw two fire hydrants fighting over a dog!

    I’m not saying it’s hot, but the corn’s popping on the cob in the back 40.

Comments are closed.