Monday, July 16, 2012

Dry County

I turn the sprinkler off just about the time the blister that is  the sun melts down behind the trees.  I'm rescuing the hostas under the sycamores and I stand for a few minutes just to hear the drops fall off the overhead leaves.  That's what a rain would sound like.

In the middle of the night, the air conditioner comes on in our bedroom.  Its soft whooshing through the vent wakes me and I think, half asleep, that it sounds like rain on the windows.

  This is what happens when you live in a dry county.

An early spring, a dry spring, does not necessarily lead to a dry summer: this is what the meteorologists told us again and again as the daffodils and crab apples bloomed before Easter and the peonies were drooping by Mother's Day.  Heat shut the door on spring and spoiled the first evenings with fireflies.  Those leisurely strolls and bike rides around the neighborhoods became races to beat the sunrise.

The corn was planted in record time by a record date.  Nothing to do but plant the beans shallow and hope a passing shower brought them up out of the dust.  Farmers run on hope and prayers, whatever the forecasters say.    Corn grows on its own internal computer, following the inexorable timetable of  its breeding.  'First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn shall appear', as the hymn proclaims.  Corn doesn't stick its tassel out and look for its shadow like the groundhog.  Corn says, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!  Our corn has been worthy of its expensive pedigree, remaining green and pretty long after topsoil moisture was gone, two and a half weeks after the last half inch rain.  Tassels emerged and pollen shed over the Fourth of July, the 5th and the 6th with temperatures of 100, 100,  and 102. We know what happened in 2011 when it was 100 degrees and wet.  We didn't talk about what might happen when the corn field is three digits and dry.  We are farmers.  Damn the torpedoes, its Independence Day; we shot our fireworks anyway.

Be realistic.  We live in the western Corn Belt. We were married in a drought year...1977.   In the 80s we suffered three droughts.  Four, if you count 1980 itself.  In the 2001 and 2002, we pumped the well dry for the first time  in March and hauled water for our greenhouse crops every day until September when we sold them.  The rains came in October.  We haven't had a crop failure due to drought since then.  Our land isn't worth $10,000 an acre for a reason.  And that reason is rain.

Be philosophical.  We are not alone in this one.  The land is dry everywhere in our state.  The land is dry, I hear tell, even in Illinois and much of Iowa.  The markets tell us so.

Be grateful.  Our wells are holding up.  We can still water the mums and the gardens.  We can still keep something pretty around us.  After a while, you have to develop tunnel vision.  Drive down the road looking neither left nor right at the crops turning white and the trees turning brown.  Summer does end and rain will fall.  Dust will settle.

Then we'll all toast the end of this dry county.

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