The Last Laugh: Rough Weather

No matter how dry or windy it gets, it could always be worse.

| November/December 1976

Well the big news in France and England this past summer and fall has centered around the drought that those countries have been suffering. Somehow that subject worked its way into the conversation t'other night over at the Plumtree Crossin' General Store. And, as you might have expected, the fellers with their feet up on the potbellied stove all immediately figured that they'd seen drier times themselves.

"Why I recollect the year—what was it? '54, '55?—when it didn't rain right here in this county from February 23rd clean through to September 5th," said one of the Jarvis boys. "You know, it got so dry that summer that the cracks in my cornfield was six inches across. Matter of fact, I dropped a 20-foot log chain down one of those cracks one evening jest as I was driving the tractor out of the field . . . but it was almost dark so I thought I'd come back in the morning and fetch the blamed thing. And you know somethin'? Danged if I could find that chain the next day . . . but I could still hear it fallin'. "  

"That's dry, all right," piped up Cleedy McCannon. "But it ain't nothin' to compare to a little place I visited once out in New Mexico. I knowed right off that the folks out there had never seen water when I saw one of the hands on a construction job faint from the heat . . . and the foreman revive him by throwin' a bucket of dust in his face.

"Well sir, I walked right up to that foreman and I said, `Mister, don't it ever rain around here?' And he thought a minute about that and he said, `You look like a church-goin' man. Do you recall the story of Noah and the ark and how it rained 40 days and 40 nights?' And I said, `Yes.' And he said, `Well, we got a half-inch that time.'

" There didn't seem to be nobody in the store fool enough to try to top that one, so old Newt Blanchard just sorta cleared his throat over in the corner and more or less started talkin' to himself.

"Now I ain't never seen nothin' like that, but I have seen the wind blow. By note and by ear, you might say. I homesteaded out on the Plains, you'll remember, back when I was young and limber . . . and I've seen blue northers and summer cyclones enough to satisfy me. I've seen the wind blow all the topsoil off 20 sections of land one day and then come back the next and pick up the rocks it'd left layin' around. Once we even had to move from Kansas to Oklahoma . . . just so's we could keep payin' taxes on the same piece of property.

"Well now. I thought that was a purty good wind, until I happened to notice that one of my new neighbors had a 40-foot log chain hangin' from the top of an oil derrick-they've got a lot of oil rigs in Oklahoma, you know-that stood outside his back door. `What's the meaning of that chain?' I asked him. `That's my wind indicator,' he says. `When the chain hangs straight down, the wind is calm. When it begins to sway a little, there's a breeze comin' up. When it stands out at a 45-degree angle, I begin thinkin' about nailin' the cows down. And when that chain stands out straight and links start comin' off, I suspect that we might be in for a serious blow.'

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