Curtis Dahlgren
A farmer's State of the Union (and state of California); a best of
By Curtis Dahlgren
August 21, 2015

"This year alone, drought cost California agriculture $2.7 billion." – USA TODAY, 8-20-15

"There's a little rain off to our west, but not enough to worry about." – Midwestern meteorologist, 2015

"GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD." Is that phrase a part of our lexicon anymore? Only one or two percent of our population actually farms. The rest of us think that our "daily bread" is a given (a "right"). It has never been a given; we've had droughts before, you know. But few people under thirty remember the drought of 1988-89, and few living Americans remember the 1930s. The following is excerpted from a column that I wrote in January 2004:

I made a cross country trip in the spring of 1989 from dry San Diego through the drier Yuma, Arizona desert and the Texas Panhandle. As I beheld the brittle grass, driving across Kansas, I heard the following song lyrics on the radio:
    As long as there's a rainbow, there's a reason for the rain.

    If we're ever going to see a rainbow, we can stand a little rain.

    I'm no stranger to the rain; I can spot bad weather, but I'll put this cloud behind me.

In eastern Kansas, I heard two county agents being interviewed. One from Phillips County, up on the Nebraska line, said: "I've lived here almost a year now and I haven't seen it rain yet." Yet the very same day, I pulled in a Chicago station and the announcer said, "It's going to be 50 degrees on Saturday and even warmer Sunday, BUT WE MAY HAVE TO PUT UP WITH A LITTLE RAIN"(!)

If you city dudes have never heard the facts of life, let me clue you in. In 1989, Miami got 42 inches of rain, including a deluge during one football game, but the four counties in south Florida ended the year under strict water-use regulations because the "normal" amount is 56 inches. Now, to get 56 inches in a year, they probably need at least two good rains per week, and mathematically speaking, that means on average 4 chances out of 7, or a 56% chance, of getting rain on at least one of the days on the weekend!

During the 1988 drought, on a Friday night, I heard a Wisconsin weatherman say, "There are a few clouds in northern Indiana, but it's nothing to worry about!"And during the same period a rock station DJ said, "It's going to be a beautiful day out in the Plains, except for a few pesky showers."

Well, that county agent from Phillips County never got to see those pesky showers! On June 11, 1988, disc jockeys all over the dial were raving about the "magnificent" and "fantastic" golfing weather – 13 percent humidity and 20 mph winds! If we ever experience a repeat of 1988-89, those city folk are goin' t'run plum out of adjectives! Funny thing is, the 99% who don't live on farms would be the first to run out of food, not the last!

I once saw a book of cartoons, "Who Invented Rain?"; in it a little boy saying his prayers says to God, "Maybe people would like snow better if you made more than one flavor." Another little boy says, "I wish God wouldn't wash the world on Saturday."

I just hate it when people miss the point, don't you? "What's your point?" The point is a simple question. We all know that the West and the South is in a state of serious drought as of August 2015. There are wildfires in the West and Northwest. MY QUESTION IS:


P.S. "Give us this day our daily rain."

PPS: I wonder why California has taken the brunt of the "bad weather"? [I don't even want to think about that!]

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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