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A common saying in the Sandhills is that we are always only two weeks away from a drought. 2020 has been a series of crises so far, a pandemic, rising unemployment, market instability, and violence and unrest nationwide. But the situation most urgent in our own backyard is lack of rain and a growing concern for prairie fires.

Moisture has been erratic this year. There have been gully washers here and there, but most clouds that seem encouraging tend to split and go around our valley.

There’s a small body of water north of our house that Bruce has always called the snake pond. I haven’t asked if there used to be a lot of snake there when he was growing up, but we certainly don’t see many around in the yard now, which suits me. 

For the last several years the snake pond has threatened to outgrow itself, and held water all winter, but lately it’s down to a large mud puddle. Daisy, our younger dog is an Idaho Shag with a fluffy coat that’s pure white. She’s pretty when she’s cleaned up and brushed but, after all, she’s a country dog and runs where she pleases. Apparently, when we leave the dogs home and go somewhere, they decide to show their displeasure by wallowing in the snake pond. Tara, a blue heeler, is smooth haired, and her grey and black coat doesn’t show much dirt. It brushes off easily when dry. Daisy, on the other hand, looks like a filthy mop that was used to clean up shop grease after her adventures. Last week it took nearly an hour, and a half bottle of shampoo to get her presentable, and in shape to come indoors. The weird thing is that neither dog likes water. Bathing them is a fight, and I can’t figure out why the mud hole is such a favorite play place.

My dad claimed that if the creek in the home meadow would run until mid-June, we’d have a hay crop. It did this year, but only due to the flooding that has occurred for the last couple of seasons. We’ll soon see if he was right, because the crew dropped mower bars this week. One thing that will help is that they’ll be able to mow places that were under water until quite recently, but the nutritional quality of that grass will be questionable. Thankfully, there at the home ranch further east in the Sandhills, they’ve had more rain, but they are starting to get concerned too.

Here in Sheridan county, relief came last week in the form of a thunderstorm that didn’t go around us. It brought big wind and some small hail so the garden and flowers took a beating but we were so glad not to have a lightning strike start fires that we don’t even mind. A reprieve, so we can shut down sprinklers for a day or two, and mow the yard without so many grasshopper attacks.

So, for now, we are breathing easy, but this is the Sandhills and we are still only two weeks away from a drought.

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