Dusty Evening with Fire

Drought gnaws. You can’t point to a day on the calendar and say, “On November 22, drought started.” It sidles into being as day after day passes without rain or snow, or with just enough to tease but not to produce. Animals that can leave start shifting their territories, and brown gradually, creepingly, replaces green on the landscape. The lack of soil moisture makes the air drier, and the air heats up faster, making rain less likely, which dries the soil, and so on in a feedback cycle.

And then the wind begins. And the dust. And something more than dust, something bitter and sweet and rich and terrifying. Continue reading


Let’s Just Move the River!

How hard could it be to pump water from the Mississippi River to the Llano Estacado? It’s only a few hundred miles, all uphill, across two or three states. The water in the Red River was already allocated, but the Mississippi had no in-stream requirements or water rights filed, and everyone was always complaining about flooding, so why not? Especially if Dallas or Fort Worth could be persuaded to buy some water to help pay for the pipeline, pumps, and power plants. Continue reading

I’m not saying that it’s dry…

… but the fox kits rang the doorbell last night and wanted to know if water-bowl refills were free, and if not, did we have change because all they had was a squirrel.

… but Athena T. Cat got caught ordering anti-static-wicks to add to her collar.

…but all cars are the same dirt brown as my pick-up, but they didn’t start out that color.

… but we have had .01″ of moisture since October 5, 2017.

… but the firefighters caught fish trying to sneak into their pumper-truck while they were fighting a blaze near the big lake. The fish wanted to take a bath.

So Much for Avian Dignity…

I seem to have a talent for finding “noble birds” in awkward places, at least awkward for this human’s ideas about where one is supposed to see eagles and falcons.

Er, ah, not exactly…

I’d always wanted to see a bald eagle up close, as in “less than 100 feet away, perched 50 feet up in a tree.” This is where one commonly finds bald eagles in the central US – in trees, well away from where you are. The Feds tend to be touchy about letting you walk right up to eagle trees in federal nature reserves. So I assumed I’d have to go to Alaska or one of those other eagle-rich locations.

Wrong. Continue reading


So there I was, minding my own business as I wandered through the house the other afternoon. We had one of those bitter south winds blowing, the kind that cut straight through everything but bricks and boiled wool. I happened to glance out the west-facing window and observed a bedovelment in progress.

You see anything, Bob?

Continue reading

Like Grass Afire

One of the legends that developed in the United States, almost as early as the first Romantics began writing about American Indians and the landscape, was that of the noble Indian living in peace and harmony with the land and with other Indians, never killing more than he could use, using every bit of all animals, and having a special knowledge of the place. By the 1960s and ‘70s, this became “Native Peoples left no footprints on Mother Earth,” meaning that they didn’t cause environmental degradation or change, and that prior to the coming of Europeans, all of North America was pristine wilderness.

To which some brave souls said, “Pick one. Was it home to Native Americans, or untouched land?” Because a few environmental historians had gone back to looking at Indians as people, people who managed their landscape and who occasionally fouled up the landscape. The earliest records about the North American landscape described fires gone wild, foul stenches that covered miles because so many bison had been run over a cliff that at best twenty percent of them could be used at all, and so the remaining hundred rotted, polluting the water and land under them.

Not a Romantic mental picture, is it? Continue reading