A little rain fell one Saturday night in the dog days of 2012.
I don’t recall how much — less than a half-inch, I’m sure.
Scant as it was, though, it gave our yard and over-grazed pastures a pale green blush. I overheard someone say it wasn’t enough to do any good, but it certainly was. No such thing as unwelcome rain in a drought.
Just how much difference a little water can make is evident anywhere a little has been spilled. I’ve not been watering my yard, but the Bermuda grass is bright in a tub-size circle where the stock tank drained 100 gallons just once. Another tiny green circle stands apart from the crunchy, brown carpet that once was our lawn where hoses are joined and have leaked a bit.
I look at these verdant swatches and I’m reminded how much good just one soaking rain in July might have done.
Brittle leaves prattling to the ground in the August breeze tell me our parched earth needs much more than just a little rain like that the weekend brought. We thank the Lord, nonetheless, for even that small sip.
Folks who keep such records tell us we’ve had nearly 20 inches less rain than normal in the last 13 months, around 10 inches less in just this year. The present drought, in fact, is just a continuation of that which started in 2011.
Last winter was unseasonably mild — so mild that cattlemen fed no or little hay, despite starting the winter with stockpiled pastures short. Spring came early, first hay cuttings two or three weeks early, and we mulled over what such an uncommon spring might portend.
This summer our fears have been realized. Pastures are gone, much of the winter’s hay already fed, and prospects of finding more both costly and dim.
I’ve long wanted to be a cattleman, rather than just someone who writes about them. This summer I suppose I should be thankful I’m not. I’ve found it worrisome enough to feed and water just one old cow and my neighbor’s calves. I wouldn’t get many night’s sleep if I had a whole herd to worry about.
We can take some comfort, I suppose, in knowing our parents went through as bad or worse in the 1930s and 1950s. We know from their experiences we can survive; we also know it wasn’t easy.
I recall an Extension trip to Kansas just a few years back with brothers who had grown up there in Dust Bowl days. We stopped at their old farm. They pointed out where the old house stood and the fields they’d worked, but mostly they just sat quietly and scanned the prairie still scarred beneath the sod. “Why’d you leave?” I asked one.
“Starved out,” he said. “Times were hard.”
Both prospered at other enterprises in later years, but in their aged eyes it was clear they’d left a part of themselves in that dry Kansas soil — a part they might have never had to leave behind, but for the lack of rain.
I scan sun-baked Ozarks pastures, imagine a tiny dust devil dancing among wisps of brittle grass and pray the scene is one from my own summers past, rather than one of days to come.
If awakened again by raindrops on my bedroom window pane, I might even be persuaded that this summer has been but a dream.
All I need to hear is just a little rain.