Waiting on God to send in the rain.

During a Texas summer, everyone celebrates when the sky grows dark with the hope for rain. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
During a Texas summer, everyone celebrates when the sky grows dark with the hope for rain. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

THE SKY grew dark.

It had been so long.

William stood on the edge of porch and looked for the rain.

It was slow coming.

It hardly ever came at all.

Summer settled in early.

Summer stayed late.

It brought heat and little else.

The ground was baked.

The corn in the field had turned brittle.

The grasses died.

Cattle bawled at night.

He had spent that morning with Fred downtown at the corner café.

Hot eggs.

Hot coffee.

Hot day.

Laughter rolled out of town when the drought rolled in.

Fred was a West Texas farmer.

He owned two sections of land.

Cotton was stunted, he said.

Even the weeds had died, he said, and nothing could kill Johnson Grass but God, and God had smote it down before the end of July.

Fred said he was planting dirt and growing dust.

Fred was dead solid serious.

William emptied his third cup of coffee, stared out the window, and watched the heat rise off the street.

It rose in waves.

“If it don’t rain pretty soon,” he said, “I’m gonna have to rob the bank.”

Fred sat back and closed his eyes.

He thought about his loan.

He got one every year.

It paid for his seeds.

It paid for the harvest.

It paid for the tractor.

It even paid for his pickup truck.

The seeds lay burnt in the field.

To survive, he would have to plant again and hope for a better fall.

The tractor sat in the barn.

The pickup was low on gas.

Fred shrugged and ordered another cup of coffee.

Might as well.

Re-fills were free.

“If it don’t rain pretty soon,” he finally said, “I’ve already robbed the bank.”

The men watched the sky as the afternoon blue turned to gray.

They watched it a lot these days.

William stood on his porch.

Fred walked a dry creek bank.

The day was growing dark.

It was not yet night.

The wind ruffled the leaves in the trees.

Clouds were black.

The sky was grumbling.

William smiled.

God bless the storms and children.

Fred said a silent prayer.

He might even go to church next Sunday.

He let the thought hang in case God was listening.

God, he knew, frowned on bank robbery.

Fred wasn’t for sure.

He might be wrong.

But, for a moment, he thought he smelled rain in the wind.

He looked up.

Lightning was writing a promise in the sky.

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  • Did the rain come?

    I worry about farmers – I produce nothing edible. It seems heroic to be a farmer, even if you have no choice because it’s in your blood. Good folk doing what they do best – but with weather in the picture, it’s harder than many jobs.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, the rain always comes but sometimes too late to rescue the crops. Farmers work so hard, and so many of them are held hostage by the weather. I’ve seen farmers lose crops to a drought. The next year, they lose crops to heavy rains and flooding. They keep at it because one day, the weather decides to cooperate, and they make up for lost harvests.

  • Joyce Gorum McGee

    Loved the phrase, “planting dirt and growing dust”. A true Texas description I have discovered since moving here. I have always been one who enjoys a rainy day. It brings out my desire to write even more than usual. Even your vivid description of an upcoming rain storm inspired my thoughts!

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I love storms, Joyce. I can sit by the window and watch them for hours. Thunder triggers my emotions. Rain is great to stir the imagination. And one day, I guess, I’ll be struck by lightning. That’s all right, too.

  • It rained last night.
    It’s cool this morning.
    It’ll be interesting to watch the day unroll.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      In East Texas, storms are better than a drive-in movie and almost as romantic.

      • Obviously in East Texas people know what matters. That’s rare.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          Life in East Texas is divided into two parts. The days it rains. The days it doesn’t.

          • East Texas Taoism – the simple path. That’s my route of choice in all things.

          • Caleb Pirtle

            I need to learn more about Taoism. I always take the crooked path that runs in circles.

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