Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The time it never rained.

Dad has more than once referenced the terrible drought that Texas went through in the mid 1950's. Friend Art, who lives in Terlingua, TX, actually indirectly got some land out of that. The Terlingua Ranch was a very large ranch (by which I mean to say hundreds of sections) in the Big Bend area. While it was desert out there, it could support cattle, so long as the rancher did his part to put in guzzlers and windmill-fed stock tanks. But water catchments don't work when it stops raining, and even springs and wells will dry up, when there's no water trickling down to the groundwater. The ranch fell on hard times, and the land was subdivided and sold off in parcels. Art bought some of it back when the original buyers subdivided again and sold it again, and then again bought some when the descendants of the original buyers sold off what seemed to them to be a questionable inheritance.

My wife has twice been down there in that desert country with me, and she refers to it as a "mudhole." It seems that her visits are very good for the wildlife down there; she attracts rain. The running joke out there is "We only get 7 inches of rain a year... but you should be here the afternoon that it falls!" I have seen some torrents out there.

This year is dry in north Texas. Actually, that's something of an understatement; it's on track to become the driest year this state has ever recorded. It's impressive that they're talking about the drought as state-wide, because we share little in common here in NE Texas with climate in SW Texas, which has little to do with the Panhandle region or the Piney Woods or the Gulf Coast or the Rio Grande Valley. It's 689 miles as the crow flies, from Amarillo to Brownsville, TX. It's 729 miles for that crow to fly from Texarkana to El Paso, TX. From the northwest corner of the panhandle to the SE corner of the state, it's a straight line flight of 799 miles, according to Google Earth. So when we say that "the state is in a drought," that's a point of significance.

Cattle owners are sending this year's beeves to slaughter, but more importantly, they're sending next year's heffers up, too. There's no more grass and hay, and water's now a consideration. This is good news for the consumer purchasing beef in the very near future, but next year, I expect that it's going to sting when you buy a T-bone. When I chased a young bull back into its pasture after he had pushed through a decrepit barbed wire fence to get at the meager ditch grass, I spoke to the landowner about fixing up the fence. "It don't matter," he told me. "They're all going to the feed lot tomorrow, anyway. Hay is $128 a round bale, when you can get it. I can't afford to keep 'em. I'm selling out." This from a cattle owner with diverse investments, like the bar that he was running while he spoke to me over the phone.

We're noticing the heat more than most years. I read that the state average temperature for the month of July was 87 degrees. Well, that doesn't sound so bad, does it? It does when you realize that it's the 24 hour average, from July 1 to July 31. I cannot recall the last day that it wasn't triple digit temperatures, here, but I know that it's been more than a month. The bank sign shows the highest temperatures at about 7:00 PM. My wife started to pull over and take a picture of it when it showed 112° F, but then decided not to take the picture when it dropped back down to 111°; it's just too common around here. 108° was cool enought that my elder daughter went out to wash and decorate her little sister's bike, just for the fun of it.

Foundations are shifting. My back door wouldn't open until I lay a soaker hose at the junction of the patio and the house, and ran it for about 6 hours to re-hydrate the clay soil to get it to push the foundation back up.

My yard has long since turned yellow, which grass crushes into a beige ash under my footsteps when I go to water the trees. The tomato plants are almost denuded of vegetation because they are the only green leaves near the grown. Grasshoppers have turned into brown locusts that are three inches long, which explode from under my feet as I walk. As they swarm, my thoughts turn from their polymorphism toward the plagues of Moses. This spring, we had some terrible hail storms that took out windows and destroyed the local blueberry crop. Now the drought and the plague of locusts. My cats brought fleas (not unlike lice) in, and I had to repeatedly bomb the house to get rid of them. So far, I've not had boils, but if I see too many frogs, I'm going to worry about my elder daughter's health.

I think I'm joking.

I just got a fancy new vest from SafariLand for work. It has better coverage, but it has a sealed cover over the panels that makes them feel like they're wrapped in shower curtains. Frankly, I'll take my chances tonight; I'm not wearing it when it's this hot.

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13 Comments:

At Friday, August 05, 2011 5:57:00 PM, Blogger Six said...

I thought it was bad when I wore my vest in the low 80's (and then only very rarely on the central california coast). I cannot imagine wearing it in the hundreds. Stay safe.

 
At Friday, August 05, 2011 6:25:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Yep, this IS an interesting year weather wise, no question. Stay cool and wear the damn vest Matt!

 
At Friday, August 05, 2011 11:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt,
If you don't wear it, be sure to take it for a "ride along" in the car. There are some carriers made that look like a uniform shirt and you wear the vest on the outside of the uniform. Don't know if that is an option for you, though. Be careful out there.

Andy Ford

 
At Saturday, August 06, 2011 9:46:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

I have always been religious about wearing a good leather jacket on a motorcycle, but when I was commuting in Atlanta traffic, I'd make an exception on "90/90" days and ride to work with it bungeed on the back.

I was more afraid of passing out from heat exhaustion and dropping the bike in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic than I was of actually having a get-off.

 
At Sunday, August 07, 2011 3:56:00 AM, Blogger TBeck said...

A friend of mine is an amateur historian. He points out that the last time Amarillo had a drought this severe was prior to the Cowboy Strike of 1883.

Stay safe out there, Matt, even if it makes your chest smell like your feet.

 
At Sunday, August 07, 2011 3:59:00 PM, Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Don't look now, but it's not over. We're on the edge; you all are dead center.


WV: cormeate. We eat when times are hard.

 
At Sunday, August 07, 2011 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Brad K. said...

It seems dry, and hot, here in northern Oklahoma, too.

Got the grasshoppers. But a friend recommended Semaspores, a bait for grasshoppers that makes them sick, kills some few. It takes 3 to 6 weeks, according to the package. The sick ones each 75% less. With our hot and dry spell, I found puttting the stuff out (five teaspoons every hundred square feet; the one pound package covered all around the garden, and around most of the barn. The sick ones, when they die, make others sick as grasshoppers are cannibals. And the sick ones are less fertile, and usually pass the sickness on to their young. What I see around my place is about a third of the grasshoppers or less, a couple of days after letting teaspoonsful drift on the breeze, around where the grasshoppers are thickest, at about one teaspoon every 8x4 or 8x5 feet "patch".

The local nursery had some "Nolo bait", which looks to be the same thing, and gave me the same results.

A neighbor claims that recently farmers have been doing more no-till planting, thus not destroying grasshopper larvae when plowing, disking, etc.


Hurray for "new" farming science.

 
At Monday, August 08, 2011 7:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TBeck, the 1850-1865ish drought may have been worse because of the duration. The Comanches were basically putting in conservation limits on the buffalo because of the drought in Texas and New Mexico. But, alas for historians, none of the Comanche carried rain gages or kept a log of same.

The good news is that it is starting to rain around Amarillo. The bad news is that Amarillo's heat island is killing the storms before they can douse more than the airport or the far northern suburbs. Ah, Texas weather.
LittleRed1

 
At Monday, August 08, 2011 9:10:00 AM, Blogger Desertrat said...

The fifties drouth got started in late 1947. By 1949 we were burned out of the cow bidness. 300 acres outside of Austin; down to ten head of cattle, but feeding them. Broke us. Broke up the family.

Yeah, Terlingua is a neat deal, but I gayrawntee you I'm not in the cow bidness...

 
At Monday, August 08, 2011 11:09:00 AM, Blogger TXGunGeek said...

Heard a presentation from a historical climatologist here at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course last week. Her research shows pretty clearly that the Pacific and Atlantic currents are the same as they were in the '50s. can you say Dust Bowl? I knew you could.And, yes there are a lot of us that are selling out because even with the high price beef is getting on the hoof, it is not worth having to feed and hay due to lack of growth out in the pastures. Water is going rough as well. I'm hoping our well stays wet even in these extraordinarily dry conditions.

 
At Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:38:00 PM, Blogger SpeakerTweaker said...

So far, I've not had boils, but if I see too many frogs, I'm going to worry about my elder daughter's health.

I think I'm joking.


I think that's funny... ;)

It is definitely some kinda hot. We've been cookin right up on the sidewalks in SA. It's bad. You know it's bad when the folks who laugh at 90º temps start complaining.

Damn, but it's hot.



tweaker

 
At Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:32:00 AM, Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Uh, if your lovely wife is a rain-magnet, you're definitely overdue for a visit. Well, y'all are overdue anyhow. Come on down!

 
At Saturday, August 13, 2011 2:05:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

I'd love to swap this location for that'n, for the weekend.

Sadly...

 

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