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.
Labels: speaking of the weather