By Helena Rodriguez
How many of you actually got some of your “save it for a rainy day” things checked off your list during this week’s rainstorms?
That’s a good way to know whether someone is sincere about doing something. Nothing like a little bit of rain to bring out the truth. And nothing like a little bit of rain to bring you and your family closer, assuming, of course, that cabin fever doesn’t drive you mad and turn everyone against each other.
Seems we Nuevo Mejicanos on the Llano Estacado are so accustomed to dry weather that many of us don’t own umbrellas. Some people think baseball caps are umbrellas. Why own an umbrella in a region where weather forecasters seem to have the easiest jobs? “Today, hot and dry. Tomorrow’s forecast, hot and dry. Still no chance of precipitation. And this weekend, hot and dry again. Geez, why didn’t I take that job with the National Weather Service in Oklahoma when I had the chance?”
When I lived in Abilene, Texas, a few years ago, one of my former co-workers from the Midwest couldn’t understand why the whole town practically shut down during rain and snowstorms. He was like, “Why not just haul out the snow tractors?” To his shock, there were some, but not many snow tractors. Why invest in snow tractors when you usually only get a few dustings of snow a year?
This west Texas mentality, which is also the Eastern New Mexico mentality, is to stay indoors and wait for the sun to melt the snow and evaporate the rain.
I hope I’m not going over some of your heads, but I’ll refer to this frame of thinking as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider Mentality.”
Are you with me?
“…Down came the rain and washed the Itsy Bitsy Town out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the Itsy Bitsy Town that didn’t want to invest in arroyos and snow plows — preferring instead to stay indoors watching Judge Judy and eating green chile stew — finally came out again.”
One thing that irks me when we get rainstorms are pessimistic weather forecasters. “Despite recent rainstorms, which caused severe flooding, the drought is still not over.”
I moved to Abilene during the summer of 2000, during one of the worst droughts in recent history. And every time we’d get a few sprinkles, which we considered “rain,” someone always reminded us that it didn’t rain enough or it didn’t rain in “the right places.” The street in front of me could be flooded but “it didn’t rain in the right place.”
And then something really wild happened that dry summer of 2000, which is a perfect example of why you should be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.
The whole town of Abilene was praying for rain. Fall came. September passed. Still no rain. Then October, oh boy! The drought was causing major concern and water restrictions. There was serious talk of cloud seeding. Lake and creek levels were at all-time lows. All of the churches in town — and in Abilene there was not just a church, but a huge church around every intersection — posted “Pray for rain” messages. There was a community prayer service for rain. The Boy Scouts did a rain dance. There was even a nut quoted in the newspaper predicting the drought would last 10 years and turn west Texas into a complete wasteland.
Then it happened. It didn’t just rain, it poured. And it poured. It pounded. Within a few hour’s span, the city was experiencing major flooding. The rain came down so hard, it ripped a hole in our pressroom at the newspaper, making a waterfall right over our presses. This is how severe it was: Our gung-ho editor, who usually had us reporters hitting the streets within seconds of a major disaster, restricted anyone from leaving the building for a couple of hours.
So we got the rain we prayed for in Abilene — all at one time. Talk about the power of prayer! Our next morning’s edition had to be printed at our sister newspaper in San Angelo.
Yes, anytime we get a decent rain around these parts, it turns into “an event.” An e-mail that my uncle Jerry Madrid sent me illustrates this point well. It’s titled “You just might be from New Mexico if …” and it finishes with this little punch, “Whenever it rains, everyone stops whatever they’re doing to stand by a window and watch.”
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: