Droughts have been a nemesis to all living things even before documented history. The great millennium drought of 6,000 years ago wrought untold misery to life in the plains of mid America and is actually documented in geological strata at the Lubbock Lake State Park where ancient people lived beside this isolated oasis for generations and survived the great dust storms and dryness of some 1,000 years.
My dad and mom related stories of the dust bowl years and the suffering endured by the masses who lived on the ranches and farms that were located in the “belt of misery” during that time. Stock tanks going dry and the act of killing emaciated cattle defined those times and I have always prayed we will never have to endure them again.
Although not an ancient soul by definition, I am old enough to recall some of the times during the drought of the 50’s after our family had been on the old League ranch for only 3 years. The wind was atrocious and even at the young age of 5 years I still recall one particular day when conditions were absolutely abysmal.
The Benjamin ISD school bus made its daily trip to the ranch to pick up my sister, then eight years of age, both in the morning and again in the evening. On one particular afternoon a terrible dust storm had blown in and my dad decided to drive out to the highway to meet the school bus to minimize the dirt road travel for the kids on board. I wanted to go so he relented and we drove the mile long trip to the highway. I recall even today, 55 years later, the ferocious wind and dirt reduced visibility to zero and dad could not see past the front of his pickup. That was a long time ago but the memory of those dismal conditions are imprinted in my mind for a lifetime.
In the late 1990’s we had to endure yet another drought with minimal rainfall and dreadful dust conditions. My sons, Pate and Hunter, were teenagers at the time and we lived in the old jail together with no air conditioning. With the doors always left open to ensure a cool night breeze coming through, the dust inside the house was but a little less than what could be seen on the outside! When the drought of the 90’s finally broke I hoped above hope that I would never have to endure another episode of such dry and dismal conditions. Much to my dismay, the worst drought in a century has settled over our Texas and has proven to be more dreadful than any of the 20th century.
Again I try to think positively and know that in time it will end and perhaps we will never have to endure this level of misery again…at least not in my lifetime. Although I can use the terrible conditions to my advantage and photographically document the misery of it all, I feel for the ranchers and farmers who have to face the critical problem of evaporating stock tank water and unavailability of adequate forage for their livestock. The threat of wildfire every day compounds the stress that they feel and it is a heavy burden to bear.
Call it a celebration of sort but with each “greatest of” in our lives it deserves at least some recognition of sorts either through images or the written word. The following images show conditions of our late 20th century and early 21st century droughts that I have created over the years. For the sake of all living things, I hope we do not have to endure these conditions ever again. Like through the study of history, we should not forget the lessons we can learn through these trying times of the past.