“It’s hotter than a snack’s ass in a wagon rut.”
I first heard this simile at a gathering of cattle ranchers in my home town of Phoenix, Arizona when I was quite young. I didn’t understand at the time and it had to be explained. I asked my father to explain what it meant again, and when he would use it.
Me: “Explain what this means, it’s quite a weird saying.”
TC: “When it rains in the desert, the wagons or cars make ruts in a dirt road, and in a desert those ruts dry and crack and the bottom of those ruts gets really hot, hotter than the road and snakes like to sleep in them because they like hot surfaces and their belly’s are their ass and that is what lays in the wagon rut so, it’s hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut.”
Me: “When would you use it?”
TC: “I would use it when it is really, really hot outside. Not just an average hot day, like an August day in the desert at one hundred and fifteen degrees dry heat.”
Similes are used to compare two unlike things and therefore, this folk simile is comparing the underbelly of a snake in a wagon rut to the extreme heat of a desert. The informant being from a desert is important here as truly only desert dwellers would understand or speak about the extreme heat to one another, therefore this becomes performing one’s identity of being from or living in a desert. Additionally not everywhere has snakes so again, part of the desert dweller identity of speaking of desert occurrences. It is a clever and fun way to speak about the horribly uncomfortable heat and create community by expressing disdain for the heat in a group. Additionally, this phrase was heard among cattle ranchers and other outdoorsmen and therefore again could have stemmed from people spending time out in the desert and then passed on to people in the city.
Annotation: This simile can be heard in the film Good Morning Vietnam, by Robin William’s character Adrain Cronauer when giving a weather report for his radio show.