I remember my Dad keeping a close eye on the horizon. If it was near harvest and storm clouds were gathering I could read the stress on his face. If it was a dry year and the towering, cloud banks to the southwest were few and far between I could sense his discomfort and anxiety.
So it’s not that I don’t know how important rain is to farming. It’s just that after so long away from the farm I temporarily forgot how important it was to not only the financial, but also the social, fabric of country life.
I was quickly reminded of this after moving back to the farm. After even the slightest amount of moisture, no matter where I went, someone wanted to know how much rain I had received. When I responded, “I don’t know,” I noticed eyebrows quickly rose in surprise and I presume a good amount of suspicion that my Farm Kid upbringing had been tarnished by too many years in the city making my trustworthiness doubtful.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Didn’t you check your rain gauge?” I would be asked.
“No. I don’t have a rain gauge,” I’d respond, which obviously didn’t create a foundation for further trust from fellow farmers.
“What? You don’t have a rain gauge? And you call yourself a farmer?” some asked.
I had been away from the farm long enough to have forgotten that on the farm conversations about the weather aren’t considered idle chit chat. Discussing rain, lack of rain, hard, cold winters or early springs aren’t just polite and casual social pleasantries. No, talk about weather among farmers is “shop talk” and all business.
This last summer, rain was scarce and talk about it abundant. Just a few drops meant the difference between a good crop and no crop at all. In fact, not far from me the difference between having a milo crop that yielded well and one that never seeded out at all was five miles and three half-inch rains. It was a tough, dry year and everyone was measuring any and every rain that fell. Well, everyone but me, it seems.
But all that has changed. I now have a new rain gauge that I too check after every rain so when asked, I can confidently divulge my particular farm’s total. I love going out after a sprinkle or downpour and lifting the thin glass cylinder out of its white plastic base and seeing to which of the red numbers and hash marks the liquid has risen.
It makes me feel like a real Farm Kid again.