Writer's rainmaking ploy brings needed moisture?

It almost worked. Well, it partly worked. OK, it didn't completely work, but we tried.

As soon as the Feb. 9 issue of Southwest Farm Press — featuring a story describing and decrying the prolonged drought and the devastating effects it was having on livestock, winter wheat and planting prospects — hit rural mailboxes across the region, it started to rain.

Some folks, I imagine, retrieved their Southwest Farm Press copies huddled under an umbrella. I heard reports of 3-inch accumulations over one mid-February weekend.

I had just completed an interview with a central Texas grain, cotton and livestock producer who was wondering what to do about planting corn. Late February was rapidly approaching and he said he needed one more shower to assure adequate moisture to plant. I suspect he's got most of his corn seed in the ground by now.

The rain came too late for most of the wheat crop to promise any grain yield but some cattle may benefit from the growth spurt. Pastures are greening up a bit.

It was all a clever ploy on our part. Writing about the weather comes with a certain risk, especially in the Southwest. Before the ink dries, actually before we can punctuate the last sentence, conditions may have changed three or four times, rendering the excellent prose we labored over for hours worthless. We're a penny-pinching bunch, writers. We hate to throw away perfectly good words we've deposited into what we hope is some sort of sensible treatise.

So, we (OK, I, Farm Press leadership, will take no blame for my foolishness.) decided that if writing about drought would make it rain then the needed moisture would be worth a bit of egg on my face. Consequently, I take credit for the rain. (If I learn how to do this on a consistent basis I may become a consultant.)

I feel good about the result. Folks are beginning to feel better about prospects for 2006.

Well, at least some of them. The plan had a flaw. It only rained in Central and North Texas. The Panhandle remained dry. South Texas continues to languish in the drought. What went wrong?

The only thing I can figure is that I wrote the article while situated in North Central Texas, in my office in Denton. We had lots of rain in Denton over the course of three consecutive weekends. It's a bit cloudy today and they're calling for storms later this evening. I can only surmise that physical location must be important.

Perhaps I need to make a trip to the Panhandle and while there write about how dry it is. I was just up that way and it is still bone dry. Perhaps I should even e-mail the story from that locale. Same for South Texas. Maybe while catching some rays at South Padre Island I could jot down a note or two on the lingering drought. I'd be willing to do that for the good of our readers.

Oh, I'm not claiming that the drought is over, even in Central Texas. Take a look at the lakes and see how long it's gone on and how much catching up needs doing. I've been in Texas going on seven years and this is the driest for the longest I've witnessed and some folks tell me it's the driest they've seen since they started farming. Some old-timers say it reminds them of the 1950s. Remarkably, they remain confident. “We're one day closer to the next rain,” one told me.

I truly wish we could make it rain. I'd gladly lick egg off my face for a decent statewide downpour.

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