East Texas is in the midst of the worst drought it has seen since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was facing Adlai Stevenson for the presidency in 1956 - the second time they had met in that electoral battle.
How long ago is that? Since Rock and Roll first became a force in America. Since before color television became the norm in American homes. Since before public schools became integrated. Since before there was more than one car and one phone per family. Since before air conditioning was standard in most homes.
To find the next worst East Texas drought before that, we have to go back almost 100 years, to 1918. We are living through one of the three worst droughts to hit East Texas in the past 100 years.
Lakes are losing water daily. Bulkheads along shores are out of the water. Marinas are in trouble. Stumps long since covered by water are reappearing, stabbing the lakes with stalagmite like shards of trees which were supposed to be covered and stay that way.
Fires have raged out of control in many areas, consuming millions of dollars in timberlands. Thousands upon thousands of acres have gone up in smoke, as firefighters fought to contain them. The largest fire in East Texas history occurred this summer, laying waste to over 24,000 acres.
Animals are catching the worst of it. Farm animals have seen their stock tanks dry up or shrink to small versions of their former size. Deer and other game are finding water closer to civilization. Pets are subdued by the heat.
Trees are taking a real beating. Large limbs and tops of trees are dying from lack of water, and if not properly removed, may cause the loss of the tree. The tree trimming business is up as a result, one of the few areas of employment to benefit.
Every day, it seems, clouds roll across the sky, looking very promising, but delivering little, if any, rain. We appreciate the cooling effect of additional shade, but starved of the life-giving water, we watch in torment as the clouds float past us, leaving little precipitation in their wake. Tropical storms which were supposed to deliver much needed rain veer south, leaving us hot and dry.
The heat is oppressive. The thermometer passes the century mark in midday. We see temperatures beyond 90 in early evening. We see temperatures in the 80s in the middle of the night. When the breeze blows in daylight hours, it feels more like a hair dryer than a respite from the summer heat.
Mandated and voluntary watering restrictions are in effect. Burn bans abound as cut limbs and gathered leaves stack up. Lawns burn up.
Music is a constant in my life, and there's a song in my memory for every occasion. The Temptations sang it best in their 1963 hit tune "I Wish It Would Rain." Oh, how I wish that it would rain. Lord, let the heavens open up and drench East Texas. We need it.
© 2011, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. firstname.lastname@example.org