Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dust Bowl Days Redux

 Well, that's interesting... I was going to title this post simply "Dust Bowl Days" and then I thought "Didn't I already name a post that?"  So, I checked and sure 'nuff, I did back on, ironically enough, June 24, 2011.  Almost exactly 2 years later, here I am in the same situation, writing about the same thing.  That has proven to me to be one of the great things about this blog- I'm surprised at how useful it's been to go back and re-read past posts.  Reading my post about "Dust Bowl Days" gives me hope that it might actually rain this year; 2011 ended up pretty well on the whole, after all.

Going back and re-reading the posts I wrote about David immediately after his death- especially THIS ONE has really, really helped me.  In the year since his passing, we've done pretty well but there are times- especially when I'm alone in my shop- when it just all seems to come down like a load of bricks.  I have literally crawled into the little dark space under my bench and curled up there for a bit.  At those times, I remember the things I wrote, the unbelievable "coincidences" that happened, eventually I start focusing on the light again, and I can emerge and go on with the day, a little stronger and a little more healed each time.  Likewise, I find it oddly comforting to go out to the graveyard and wander around.   As I wrote either here or on Facebook, the cemetery where David is buried is probably 1/3 children, many who seemed to have died during the mid-20's.  I took some PHOTOS.  Somehow, it lessens my loss to know that many, many others have gone thru this already.   Over Christmas, we watched Ken Burn's The Dust Bowl and I was surprised to see that fully 75% of those in the 1st dust bowl stayed put.  If you'd asked me before, I'd have said 75% left, but no...  Some of them died and some of them survived, but the encouraging thing is that some did stay, survive, rebuild, and go on to see green grass again.  Looking at history is good.  And it  reminds me of this passage from one of my favorite books:

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 NKJV  That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.  (10)  Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us.
And so, on we go, forging ahead, one foot in front of the other, dealing with circumstances the best we can, as life dishes them out.  Lest we lose focus during our struggles, let me quote of the end of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.  (14)  For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
Okay, let's look at the pasture condition now.   Here's the condition of the "grass".  This is a spot out in the pasture. The roots are still there, but the exposed grass is gone.  And this is not just a case of "over-grazing" because it looks like this in places where I haven't had cattle in a year- in the shipping trap sub-trap, for instance, and in places along the road right of way where there is never grazing. The grass just is not growing. 


Worse, though, are the prairie dog towns.  Here, there IS grazing from these pasture rats.  Most of the dog towns are now bare dirt or close to it.  On the upside, the prairie dogs themselves are mostly gone.  Where you'd go out and see dogs running like dropped marbles on a tile floor, now you'll see 1-2-3 and they're scattered all over the town.  My guess is that the lack of food stressed them and a plague finished the job.

Prairie dog town

Here's what happens when the wind kicks up over a prairie dog town, which is does, frequently.

We have gotten some rain and here's a section of pasture that got 1" of rain about 2 weeks before this picture was taken.  It's not great, but it's something and since the cattle focus here, it gives the rest of the pasture a chance to catch up.  Note rain clouds in distance.

Little bit o' green

Since I took these pictures, it has rained 2.5" in parts of the ranch and even more up-creek from us, the result of which is that the main creek is FULL of water.  Just like the 1st "Dust Bowl Days" post, though, there's water in the creek, but the adjacent land is dry and brown.  Unlike that year, though, I am determined to hold our cattle numbers down to let the pasture recover.  In a good year, we'll run 2000-2100 yearlings.  This year, we have 700.  The problem with that is- no cattle, no income.  Try cutting your income by 66% and let me know how it works you.  Nevertheless, we're better off that those who went thru the original Dust Bowl and we're going to- Lord willing!!!- survive this.

In other news, I spent a week taking mandolin lessons at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp in Maryville, TN.  I did 8 years there as the on-grounds repairguy, but this was my first time as a Kamper.  It was mega-fun.  I needed the break.  And it rained every day.