Ron Smith 1, Senior Content Director

July 8, 2011

2 Min Read

Thermometers may register as high as 106 degrees in Denton, Texas, today. To say it’s a dry heat is stretching the limits of redundancy.

It is hot. And it is dry.

But I couldn’t help thinking about what a short time it seems since I was sitting in a disabled vehicle waiting on a tow truck to come repair a tire that separated from the rim when it slid into a curb on an icy street.

It was almost 100 degrees colder that day than it is now. And it was wet, although a solid wet.

I’m also wondering which is worse—unrelenting heat and drought or devastating, painful, paralyzing cold that creeps into your pores and seeps down to your bones.

On a personal level, I’ll take the heat. But in a more magnanimous, business-minded moment, I guess the cold was less painful to the farmers and ranchers who I count among our readers and my friends.

They often have to deal with the cold weather—tending cattle, seeing after equipment, repairing damaged fences and so on. But they appreciate the precipitation that may accompany a cold spell, and they can get out of wintry weather a little easier than they can abandon crops in the middle of a stifling drought.

Much of winter’s work takes place in the shop or in front of a computer where the chill is at least kept at bay.

Summer heat is less easy to avoid. Irrigation systems must be checked. Crops, if they survive, still need to be tended—sprayed, cultivated, prepared for harvest. And cattle that may have required someone to break ice in stock tanks and water troughs last February may need someone to haul water in as those tanks and troughs dry up.

Summer work, under the best of conditions, is hard, dusty, and dangerously hot. It’s also depressing, as we’ve pointed out before, when crops wither, cattle go off their feed and profit margins shrink as certainly as an ice cube on a tin roof.

Under the devastating conditions that have persisted across most of the Southwest this summer, summer work is treacherous and often futile. Water runs out, crops die, investments in technology fail against the forces of nature.

The late poet Robert Frost knew that heat and cold were both deadly, as he aptly demonstrated in his poem Fire and Ice.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Well, this drought likely does not portend the end of the world, nor did that awful cold spell last winter auger the coming of doomsday. But it’s a hard summer and a little ice would be most welcome about now.


About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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