It is difficult to complain about drought when every news report posts daily accounts of the Mississippi, Missouri, and other rivers at flood stage. These same reports focus on folks whose lives will never be the same when the river finally subsides. I imagine them cleaning up the mud, mold, and sodden sand bags from their ruined homes, businesses, and public buildings, and wonder how I can whine about no rain.
However, after a recent trip across West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, I know why lack of rain concerns me. Those folks probably don’t remember their last bit of moisture, based on the condition of their pastures. I saw cattle resting in pastures of pure dirt—no grass. There wasn’t anything to eat, so they sat themselves down, hoping something to fill their growling stomachs would come their way. I saw other cows grazing burned cactus. The rancher had burned the needles off the cholla so his cattle had something to eat. I know cholla, so despite the torch job, some hungry cow also has stickers irritating her lips and mouth.
What was scary was the number of acres involved. This bone- colored land-- there was no new grass--only last year’s sere stems, covered miles and miles-- maybe all the way to that historic forest fire in Arizona. Off the plains, dry pines in the forest await a lightning strike or a careless camper to start the next uncontrolled blaze. Everywhere we drove, we saw extreme danger fire alerts. Running streams were rare sights. Without deep wells, communities would fail. Of course, those wells probably need a refill too.
While this is always a dry country designed for sturdy inhabitants, the drought escalates concerns. You see it in the eyes of the people who serve you in gas stations, restaurants, and inns. Is there enough water to share?
Once back home, my own pasture and yard showed more sign of heat stress. Grass isn’t growing. What had been green when I drove out the drive is now straw-like. Trees show signs of drought stress as they drop yellow leaves far too early in the summer, and flower and vegetable gardens wilt by mid-morning. Upon waking, I begin an all-day prayer for rain and then remember those folks east of me who pray the rain will stop.
Too bad Mother Nature doesn’t have some method to redistribute her excess moisture to lands of little rain. If someone could figure out how to redirect those overflowing rivers West, sandbag salesman would go broke, the desert would surely bloom, and cows would contentedly munch grass, not dust and cactus.