If you’re involved with agriculture on the Northern Plains, you almost certainly have some vivid memories of drought.
Here’s one of mine:
In 1988 drought ravaged much of the Upper Midwest, including my family farm in North Dakota. That summer, I returned home one weekend from my journalism job and helped my father and younger brother move cattle.
During the move, I walked across a low-lying patch of pasture next to a creek. In the past, no matter how hot and dry the summer, that small patch always had remained green. Often gnawed down by cattle, yes, but green nonetheless.
Not on this Saturday morning in 1988. The patch was as brown, wilted and ugly as the rest of the pasture. I stood there in dismay. Not even this patch was safe.
My brother, who was on the farm full time, came over and asked what was wrong.
I pointed to the grass. “Just look at it!”
My brother, a no-nonsense guy who wanted to move the cattle with a minimum of fuss, couldn’t hide his exasperation. “What did you expect?”
Well, I had expected the puny crops and withered pastures. I was prepared for that. But I had assumed this small patch of pasture would still be green. Sometimes it’s the little, unexpected things that sneak past our defenses.
In all the years that followed, I never again took that patch for granted.
My Sept. 17 cover article in Agweek compares this year’s drought with notorious droughts of the past, including the one in 1988.