Sandstorm season tough on everyone

Sandstorm season arrived right on cue this past week.

As the gates opened at the New Mexico Ag Expo in Portales the winds began to kick up a little. By noon we were approaching a full-on brown-out. Never mind, farmers on the high plains are accustomed to blowing dirt and they turned out anyway.

Anyone who grew up here knows that by mid-February the only weather certainty is high winds nearly as many days as not. As long as the breeze stays under 30 knots it doesn't slow us down much.

When the air turns brown with precious topsoil and gusts start to modulate in the 50-60 mph category even farmers start to get a little edgy. So it was on the first day of Ag Expo. We were all still optimistic and I didn't witness anyone tearing someone else's head off but nerves were a little raw.

Day two dawned with slightly dampened ground and the smell of moisture in the air and the mood changed noticeably. Granted, we didn't actually get any really measurable precipitation but the possibility was there even though it seemed colder.

I was too young to understand it when I was growing up but it had to be gut-wrenching for my dad and granddad to watch the fields blow on one of those brown days in February.

I understand the impact a lot better these days and I know the wind is going to blow like crazy in February and March and I know that sooner or later we'll get some real relief from this drought.

What I'm not sure of is whether or not we'll get that relief soon enough to save farms and family's lives in our communities. It's not the "Dirty '30s" that I'm pretty sure of, but the toll from high feed and fuel prices and no moisture is slowly sneaking up on our farmers and ranchers.

There aren't any roadsters piled high with family belongings and there's no exodus to the Promised Land. But even back in the '30s local history doesn't show that people in this area abandoned the land like they did in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Around here some went under, others just got tougher and better at surviving.

We've been fortunate where our local economy is concerned we haven't suffered the way some parts of the country have. But we best not forget that all our economic fortunes are linked to agriculture around here.

The browner the days get this spring and the longer the drought hangs on the tougher it will be on all of us.

Pray for rain.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: karlterry@yucca.net

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