Never forget, heat can kill you!

People are much more likely to die from heat than from any other natural phenomena.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, the heat is upon us. We desert dwellers are forced to understand the dangers lurking in those high thermometer readings. We know they can very quickly lead to death.

Unfortunately, many visitors to our valley don’t seem to understand. Just two week’s ago, a tourist died on one of our city trails, a young woman who tried scaling Camelback Mountain without water. In July! Earlier, when paramedics had to rescue dehydrated hikers from our parks, a dozen firefighters were themselves overcome by the heat. In response, some of our trails have been closed to the public. Others are only open early in the morning and in the evening.

It’s interesting, I think, that so many people fear hurricanes and tornados and floods and earthquakes when the natural event most likely to kill them is heat.

I know first-hand the horrors of heat sickness. The symptoms can arrive frighteningly fast. Dizziness, confusion, headache, nausea, signs that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death. All but one of my bouts of heat illness were brought on by officiating and my own stupidity. I was an amateur sports official for 40 years, where I called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. I was almost always the only woman on the field, a fact that was rarely far from my mind.

My first attack of heat sickness occurred when I umpired a baseball game in extreme heat.

As you can imagine, I was sometimes made to feel I didn’t belong in the officiating ranks, and I was keenly aware that any show of weakness would lay me open to negative comments from my peers, coaches, and fans. So, the first time I got heat sickness, I struggled through it. It was a baseball game and I was clad in the necessary armor required for working behind the plate: chest protector, shin guards, wool cap, polyester shirt and slacks, steel-toed shoes. The sun was relentless. After the game, I went home and balanced myself under a cold shower for what seemed like hours. I drank Gatorade and copious amounts of water. I felt lousy for a day or two, then returned to the field.

One of the problems associated with heat illness is that once you get it your internal thermometer is messed up and you start succumbing to it more easily. I’m a slow learner sometimes, so it took me a while to finally take a stand. One day, in a sub-varsity football game, I called time and went to the trainer. He took one look at me and dragged me into the locker room where he filled me with fluids and applied wet, icy towels to my head and neck. I was rather surprised when my crew mates greeted me at halftime and promptly told me to go home and get well. No derision. No smirks. I realized then that most outdoor officials in the southwest have probably suffered similarly at one time or another.

Most of my bouts of heat sickness came while I officiated football games in Arizona’s scorching Sonoran Desert, where temperatures often exceed 110 degrees.

A few years later, the telltale signs of heat sickness attacked in the middle of a varsity football game, and you’d be proud of me. I signaled time out, struggled off the field, and said I was sick. Later, when I opened my eyes in the school’s nursing office, I found myself surround by four paramedics. They were so attentive and cute. I briefly considered that they might be male strippers with their prominent muscles and appealing uniforms, but that was just my heat-addled brain.

What finally made me understand the true dangers of heat illness was the time I got lost in the desert. I did all the wrong things. I went rock collecting alone. I walked away from my stranded vehicle. I had two dogs with me who drank all my water. When I saw that last half inch of liquid in my bottle and felt the sun beating down, I tied my dogs under a bush and hoped the coyotes would stay away. I built cairns as I tried to find my way back to civilization, so I might locate my sweet pups if I survived. While the whole ordeal only lasted half-a-day and I was safely reunited with my dogs, the episode is etched into my brain. As is the fact that today I might be nothing more than a pile of bleached bones in the vast Sonoran Desert.

While lost in the desert, I suffered from heat sickness, and today I consider myself lucky to be alive.

It’s understandable then that I never go anywhere without water. That bottle is always in my hand, which here in the desert is pretty much normal. In fact, those without a mobile water supply are easily identified as tourists.

The point is, heat can kill you quickly. And when you consider that our world is heating up rapidly, it’s something we should all take into account whenever we leave the bliss of air-conditioning.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-copy-3.jpg



Anne Montgomery

TouchPoint Press

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.


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