Hoping to be useful every day of 2015

Wow, that was fast.

Seems like only a week or so ago we were celebrating our first New Year in Texas. First thing I know, we’ve witnessed 15 of them snapsnapsnapsnap just like that and I sit here with way more gray hair, a few more wrinkles—well a lot more—several joints that didn’t ache until recently and more good adventures across  Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico than I could have imagined. I’m up for few more and welcome the opportunity to hit the road in search of good farmers willing to tell me how they manage to make a living in the often harsh climate of the Southwest.

I’m hoping 2015 will bring an end to this prolonged drought. I must admit I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this four-year run of dry weather and have gone very few weeks without writing a drought story. I feel compelled to pass things along so that folks who already know how bad the situation is can realize that at least a few others recognize their plights.

I don’t remember talking to a farmer in the last four years who didn’t mention that drought had affected what he would do or had already done. Some fared better than others but dry weather was always in the back of their minds as they prepared for planting, fertilization or harvest.

I’m also hoping for better marketing opportunities in 2015. We need higher prices for cotton, grain and peanuts. Producers have lost ground with the drought and for several years got a little help from good commodity prices to help them keep pace. Those markets have gone south in recent months but production costs have not.

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Cattle producers need a break, too. Prices remain high, but herd numbers are at near historic lows and may stay that way for some time as ranchers wait for pastures to recover from the devastating drought. Replacement animals are expensive, too. Recent rainfall in some parts of the region offers hope that grass will begin to cover the bare spots so folks can begin rebuilding their herds. Forage specialists advise going slowly, however, and not put too much pressure on new vegetation. Climatologists also warn that the drought may not be done yet, so prudence is advised.

I’m hoping to be more productive myself in 2015. I promise myself every January that I will be more efficient and make more trips to more places than I did the year before. Somehow, I always fall short of my expectations. As the poet Robert Browning wrote: “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?” That’s as good an excuse as any, I suppose.



So, what I’ll promise myself this year is to try to do something useful every day. Define useful? Maybe it doesn’t mean writing 5,000 words between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. every day or conducting a half-dozen good interviews before lunch. It probably doesn’t mean I’ll get the closets cleaned out over the weekend or my desk cleared off before I shut down for the day. But it might.

Some days being useful might mean rolling out of bed before 7 and walking a mile before breakfast. It might mean finishing the Sunday crossword without looking at the bottom of the page to find the answers. Maybe it means changing the cat litter so Pat doesn’t have to. And perhaps it means reading over a commentary one more time before I send it on for someone else to find and fix my typos. I can start that now.

Happy New Year.

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