Raindrops Aren't Falling on Our Heads

And they won't, unless you pay your rain tax.

In the desert southwest, people's perception of water and its importance is based at least as much on theology and philosophy as it is on hydrology and economics. In a land where water is scarce--where a year or more may pass without rain, where fierce thunderstorms can produce flooded arroyos in a matter of minutes, where hailstones can flatten a year's work in seconds--people are naturally forced to do a lot of thinking and talking about water.

This year's drought is the third worst on record in Cochise County, where I live. Most weather stations have yet to record a full inch of rain in their gauges.

A farmer near Kansas Settlement said he was going to run his water well through a washing machine wringer in order to get enough water to cook with.

I remember back in January, when it looked like snow would fall. We didn't even get 10 bushels to the acre in Bisbee Junction. In fact, there wasn't enough snow to make even one snowball, so I just swept up what was there and burned it.

I knew we were in for a dry spell when the dust storms of March paid us a visit. I could tell a big dust storm was on the way when I could hear the rattlesnakes sneezing.

We have a windmill by the front entrance to our botanical garden here in Bisbee Junction. I set the brake on it and chained the wheel so I would not waste a drop of water during those fierce windstorms. We had a big wind that blew the chain off. It hit the brake and the windmill started pumping ... backwards! Within 30 minutes there was water shooting up at least 3 feet from every gopher hole for a distance of half a mile from the well.

Back in April a cloud drifted over the neighborhood and a man was struck by a drop of rain. He was so startled that he fainted. Since I'm a volunteer firefighter for the Naco Fire District, I knew just what to do in such an emergency. The only way I could revive him was to throw a bucket of sand in his face.

Local farmers report the rain dries out before it hits the ground and as a result, their cows are giving condensed milk and the hens are all laying powdered eggs. You ever try to churn butter out of condensed milk?

My wife said she doesn't like to wash our clothes in evaporated water.

Some farmers near New Mexico said they were going to have to pay their taxes in our Mother state of New Mexico, because that's where their farms had blown.

Last week we had to repair a half-mile of fence that blew over. We drilled post holes for two days. Then a strong wind came up and blew away all of the topsoil. When I went out to see what effect the wind had on our work all I had was a half-mile of post holes standing on top of the ground.

We had some problems with our water well last month. The man from the drilling company said our water tested out at only 10 percent moisture content.

One of our wells was 140 feet deep. A big windstorm came along and blew away all of the gravel around the well, leaving me a hole over 100 feet up in the air. My friend Pablo saved the day. He brought over his air-powered chain saw and sawed up the hole. Then we planned to use it for fence post holes. But then the wind blew those post holes into our cactus garden and the holes were so full of holes that they would no longer hold dirt.

One afternoon we had a big dust storm and it was so dark we could hardly see. The little ground squirrels and rabbits thought they had been buried. They dug up through the dust storm to get out and for three hours after the dust had settled it rained ground squirrels and jack rabbits.

But there is hope for us, dear readers. It is a known fact that you will not get one drop of water until you pay your rain tax. Send your tax dollars to: Arizona Cactus, 8 Cactus Lane, Bisbee, Arizona 85603. I plan to go up on the Hopi Indian reservation and hire a shaman, 15 rain dancers, the Hopi Rain Chorus and 37 drummers for a statewide rain dance. I tested just one shaman by phone and got some sprinkles last Sunday. We would have had more but I ran out of feathers.

Remember, the quality of the summer monsoons depends upon the sincerity of your checks. No checkey, no rainey!

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