Jerry Nelson: Doggone wet

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum

There have been summers when we studied the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiniest puff of cloud. We’ve had summers when the faintest rumble of thunder would give us paroxysms of pleasure and we would later say to one another, “Wow, a quarter of an inch of rain! That’s enough to help!”

We’ve had years when the growing season was as dry as popcorn, when the parched soil would develop cracks that were large enough to swallow a Shetland pony.

This has not been one of those years.

This year began with biblical levels of precipitation and has only gotten progressively wetter. It’s been an odd summer, the kind where we look at the rain gauge and say, “Wow, only an inch! That won’t hurt too much.”

September is usually a quiet month. A normal September starts out warm and dry and gradually becomes cooler and drier.

Not this September. The first half of this month in our neck of the woods brought more rainfall than we normally receive in an entire summer. Rain didn’t merely fall in buckets; it came down in quantities often associated with oceangoing tankers.

The ensuing floods broke long-standing records. This produced no small amount of misery in many locales, ranging from inundated farmland to submerged cars to basements that suddenly featured indoor swimming pools.

During the storm I watched a TV news guy doing a remote from a flooded street. As he spoke, a motorist – a certifiable eejit – drove down the street in water that was so deep that it nearly reached the hood of the car. I secretly hoped that the car would stall, forcing its driver to exit into the belly-deep water in full view of the camera.

After the worst of the latest rains had ended, I ventured out to see what the storms had left in their wake.

Our garden was a miniature lake. Not that it was much of a garden to begin with. Its soil had been saturated all summer. I tried to no-till some veggies, but the plants looked sickly. Following the storms, I found cucumbers floating around like an invasive species of finless green fish. That’s a new one on me.

South of the farm where I grew up the culverts were roaring at full throttle. I could see where water had rushed over the road and had scoured about 100 yards of its surface. That has never happened in all of my 60-some years. Another new experience.

In the middle of the township road a few yards west of our farmstead there sat a rusty barrel that has a Road Closed sign bolted to it. I decided to venture out on foot to see what was going on. Our golden retriever, Sandy, accompanied me as he always does when I go for a walk.

A quarter mile west of our house there’s a culvert. Directly above the culvert, in the center of the road, there’s a hole about the size of home plate. Closer examination revealed that the road had been totally undermined by floodwaters. Anyone who chose to ignore the Road Closed sign and attempted to drive over the hollowed-out section would have quickly become acquainted with the roadbed’s subterranean structure.

In the grand scheme of things, this is but a minor inconvenience. It’s nothing compared to the washouts and collapsed highways and widespread devastation caused by cosmic quantities of that nefarious chemical compound known as dihydrogen monoxide.

Sandy decided to inspect the waterflow at the inlet of the culvert. He began to get too close to the water for my comfort, so I commanded him to come back. Too late! He teetered on the edge of the culvert for a nanosecond, then lost his footing and disappeared.

There were no yelps, no sounds of struggle. Beneath my feet, I could hear a muffled thumping that seemed to be moving rapidly from left to right. A few seconds later, Sandy shot out of the culvert’s discharge port.

He dogpaddled (how else would he do it?) to the shoreline and sat there for a few moments, catching his breath. Sandy’s personality reminds me of dopey old laid-back hippie. The expression on his face seemed to say, “Whoa, man! Bad trip!”

Those words pretty much sum up our weather experience this summer. Sandy might be somewhat of an eejit, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be right once in a while.

The dog scrambled up the embankment and rejoined me on the road.

“C’mon, Sandy,” I said. “We’ve had enough new experiences for one day. Let’s go home and tell Mom that you got your annual bath!”

Jerry Nelson