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Dry summers and full ponds

Life is Simple: Was it a pop-up shower that filled that pond — or something else?

There was a big crowd at the feed store last week when the conversation evolved into discussing the highs and lows of 2018. While there were individual stories of lightning strikes, farm sales, calving catastrophes, cattle escapes, family sickness and barn fires (notice how we dwell on the lows), the consensus topic was the great drought of the past year.

Around my little corner of the world in Missouri, the driest spring and summer in most people’s memory resulted in extreme shortages of both hay and pasture, major herd reductions of cattle, and dry ponds everywhere. Trying to veer the conversation in a more positive direction, one optimist stated, “Well, at least a lot of us got the chance to clean out those old ponds that had been needing it for years.” Most just mumbled and nodded toward the guy who had attempted to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Never missing a chance to stir the pot, the owner of the establishment directed his comment to one of the older men in the gathering of farmers. “James,” he asked, “you didn’t have a problem with your pond going dry, did you?”

Rather sheepishly, the elderly gentleman replied, “No, no I didn’t. Luckily my ponds stayed pretty full.”

The rest of us were clueless as to why James was the only one of the bunch to not run short of pond water, and the owner goaded him once more. “Why don’t you tell the bunch about how you managed to keep your ponds full?”

James began to tell the story of how, at the height of the drought, he had begun to relocate cattle to a farm about 10 miles from his home, for them to have access to a better supply of water. Spot showers had begun to pop up almost every afternoon, but most would only cover a few acres and last even fewer minutes. If you weren’t directly under a storm, you might not even realize it had occurred.

As James returned home one afternoon, one of his neighbors pulled in right behind him.

“You must have had one of those quick gully-washers today,” the neighbor commented.

James informed the neighbor that he had been at the other farm all day and had no idea whether a shower had hit there. Kicking the dirt by his boot, it was the same dry dust that was there when he had left that morning. “It doesn’t look like it. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” the neighbor said, “I just drove by your pond and noticed it was full.”

Excitedly, James hurried down to an area just around the corner of his barn where he could see his pond, and sure enough, it was brimming with enough water that it was actually overflowing through the spillway and headed toward another pond below that one. He dropped to his knees to give thanks for the small but bountiful rain.

Later that afternoon, when James went back down to the barn to get a tool he needed, he discovered that a valve had broken on his automatic waterer, and there was a small stream of clear, cold well water gushing in the direction of his pond.

Crownover writes from Missouri.

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